Environment / Technology

Night Vision for Everyone

Last week, I mentioned some research that has the potential to turn any window into a solar panel.  It turns out that’s just a side benefit – the original aim of the research is actually even more innovative, in its own way.

The technology features thin, transparent layers of material that absorb infrared light (heat) and convert it to electrons.  For the solar window, it stops there – get enough electrons flowing, and there’s your electricity.  But you can also amplify the electron signal and convert it into a visible image.  In short, it’s night vision, like you might get with a pair of goggles.  But unlike goggles, these strips

  1. weigh just a few grams;
  2. don’t require massive amounts of electricity; and
  3. are significantly cheaper to produce.

courtesy flickr/lorchaos

Applications

Possible uses include glasses, car windshields, and home windows.  In every case, the technology would be a powerful force for sustainability.  Rather than producing energy, as in the solar panel example, these devices could simply reduce the need for light.  Imagine crossing your house in the middle of the night without leaving a light on.  Or better still, driving around a city that no longer needs streetlights!  Remember, kids: the most efficient energy of all is the kind you never use in the first place.

As a bonus upside, this could reduce light pollution, allowing space lovers like myself to watch the stars without having to live in the boondocks.  The downside?  In a world where everyone’s got acute night vision, a five-dollar flashlight becomes a formidable weapon.

Related

Discovery article with further details

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