Being able to see in the dark without the use of night-vision goggles could soon become reality, thanks to a breakthrough from Canberra scientists.
Researchers at the Australian National University have helped to develop a thin film made of nanoscale crystals that would allow users to see clearly at night.
The film, thinner than a human hair, has the potential to be placed on a standard pair of glasses, allowing them to be used for night vision.
Lead researcher on the project and postdoctoral fellow at the university, Dr Rocio Camacho Morales, said the new technology had the potential for a wide variety of uses.
"This is a very important breakthrough, and it will be able to provide lots of opportunities, like being able to drive more safely at night in case an animal jumps out of nowhere," Dr Morales said.
"We have made the invisible visible."
Work on developing the nanoscale crystal film has been a five-year project for Dr Morales and a team of researchers from Australia, the UK and Europe.
It's hoped the film would be able to be applied as a filter to glasses or even drones in order for people to see more clearly during the night.
Other potential uses, such as improving safety for people walking home at night or for police and emergency services while on the job, have been touted as future possibilities for the technology.
Dr Morales said the new film would also be easier, safer and less heavy to use than traditional night-vision devices, that often leave users with chronic neck injuries due to its weight.
"In normal night-vision or infrared cameras, it requires a cooling system for it to work, and so there is often a lot of noise going on as well," she said.
"The current technology converts infrared lights to an electrical signal, which is then displayed on a monitor.
"In our case, the [nanoscale crystal film] will all be optical, so no conversion is required."
Rather than requiring cryogenic freezing in order to work, the new technology is able to function at room temperature.
While research has led to the first proof-of-concept experiments for the film, further work will be carried out to determine how the technology would be advanced.
Dr Morales said the new technology would be easy to mass produce and would be able to be done within Australia, once further research was conducted.
"This is just the start, and there are lots of ambitions and applications for it," she said.
"The next steps are to keep exploring those possibilities, which will give us more efficiency and allow us to start partnering with industry.
"In Australia, we have the capacity, knowledge and experience in this technology to manufacture it ourselves."
The research has been published in the journal Advanced Photonics.
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