Nanotech microlens may lead to better satellite cameras, night-vision goggles

Researchers have figured out how to make infrared satellite imaging technology stronger, which could lead to better night vision goggles and medical devices.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

Researchers know how to boost the strength of infrared imaging using a quantum dot device. By coating the nanotech microlens with gold, the signal was amplified so much that scientists think the breakthrough could lead to better infrared imaging technology.

You are probably wondering why you should care. Well, the advanced microlens technology could improve night vision goggles for soldiers and it could help improve high-tech infrared satellites for space exploration.

Currently, photodetectors are made of mercury-cadmium-telluride technology, but these devices suffer from long exposure times. The new microlens uses quantum dot infrared photodetectors — which basically looks like a flat surface with tiny holes covered in gold.

Shawn-Yu Lin, a physics professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has demonstrated for the first time that light entering an infrared detector can squeeze into tiny holes in the surface of the nanoscopic gold and amplify the signal. And this in turn, increases the concentration of the trapped light and quantum dots.

According to a statement:

"Infrared detection is a big priority right now, as more effective infrared satellite imaging technology holds the potential to benefit everything from homeland security to monitoring climate change and deforestation," said Lin, who in 2008 created the world's darkest material as well as a coating for solar panels that absorbs 99.9 percent of light from nearly all angles.

The signal was enhanced when the quantum dots converted the photons into electrons, which boosted the electric field by 400 percent. Perhaps more impressively, the noise level didn't increase, even though the signal increased substantially.

Lin predicts that within several years, the infrared technology will be made with a 20-fold enhancement in signal.

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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