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Infrared Vision In a Contact Lens Soon To Be Reality

Update Date: Mar 18, 2014 11:38 AM EDT

It might sound like something from a spy thriller movie: putting on a contact lens that equips infrared vision without any bulky contraption. However, this fancy system is soon going to be reality, credits to researchers at the University of Michigan. 

Scientists will be turning the optical capabilities of graphene to create contact lenses with infrared vision. 

Graphene is such a substance that can detect the entire infrared spectrum with visible and ultraviolet light thrown in. However, there is a little catch in this rosy picture. Graphene being only one-atom thick, it could only absorb 2.3 percent of the light hitting it which is not enough to generate an electrical signal. 

"The challenge for the current generation of graphene-based detectors is that their sensitivity is typically very poor," said Zhaohui Zhong, assistant professor at the University of Michigan, in a press release. "It's a hundred to a thousand times lower than what a commercial device would require."

For addressing such limitation, researchers devised a new method for generation the electrical signal. The new method amplified the electrical current that was near the electrical signals generated by the incoming light instead of trying to measure the electrons that were released when light stroke. 

"If we integrate it with a contact lens or other wearable electronics, it expands your vision," Zhong said in the release. "It provides you another way of interacting with your environment."

Reportedly, the device has nearly the same sensitivity as cooled mid-infrared detectors at room temperature.

The research has been published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

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