Scientists have created the first room-temperature light detector that can sense the full infrared spectrum, according to researchers at the University of Michigan. It can be stacked on night vision contact lenses!
This invention is very real—the research has been published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology by a team at the University of Michigan's College of Engineering led by Zhaohui Zhong and Ted Norris.
They have achieved this feat inventing "a new way to detect light," according to Zhong. The detector uses graphene, the one-atom thick layer carbon atoms that was known to capture the entire spectrum but with a very low sensitivity, absorbing only 2.3 percent of the light that goes through it.
To make the device, they put an insulating barrier layer between two graphene sheets. The bottom layer had a current running through it. When light hit the top layer, it freed electrons, creating positively charged holes. Then, the electrons used a quantum mechanical trick to slip through the barrier and into the bottom layer of graphene.
The positively-charged holes, left behind in the top layer, produced an electric field that affected the flow of electricity through the bottom layer. By measuring the change in current, the team could deduce the brightness of the light hitting the graphene.
It works at room temperature and can be made so thin you can put in contact lenses and cellphones.
We can make the entire design super-thin. It can be stacked on a contact lens or integrated with a cell phone. If we integrate it with a contact lens or other wearable electronics, it expands your vision. It provides you another way of interacting with your environment.
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