Night Vision for Everyone

Night Vision for Everyone!According to an article in Advanced Materials, DARPA funded research at the U. of Florida has adapted technology regularly found in flat-screen OLED televisions to create a thin film that turns any infrared signal into visible light. This is exciting news for the consumer base is that such cheap night vision could be integrated into everything from car windshields to plate glass windows to cell phone cameras as well eyewear. For the warfighter, this could also be a boon, as eye pro could pull double duty as night vision and be even more widely available.

Traditional night vision systems rely on a vacuum but new thin-film night vision requires no vacuum but instead use several layers of energy-efficient OLEDs to convert infrared light to the visible spectrum. In this case it is seven separate layers of OLEDs that detect IR light as it enters, generating a charge of three to five volts then amplifies the signal as it passes through the additional layers. This process converts the light to the visible spectrum, producing a green-lit picture similar to that of existing night vision tech. What makes this new technology so special is that a night vision device might weigh less than a quarter of a pound, with the actual working bits being only a few microns thick.

The proof of concept for the technology is only about one square centimeter, but researchers think they could scale the concept to a usable device like a car windshield or cell phone camera within just 18 months.

ENVG Image Photo PEO-SoldierTruthfully, these are the things that keep me up at night. Sure, the technology can easily be applied to both mil and commercially items to improve night vision at a lower cost but ultimately that’s the problem isn’t it? If everyone can afford night vision and it is built-in to common everyday items then it isn’t special anymore and it chips away at that “Owning the Night” edge we have prided ourselves on for the last 30 years or so. We want technologies like this to be special. Our enemies purchase any technology from the open market that they can use to close the gap between them and us. Fortunately, our tech base is hard at work fielding and improving on new systems that fuse night vision and IR sensors (see photo). For example, the AN/PSQ-20 Enhanced Night Vision Goggle is a helmet-mounted passive Image Intensification (I2) and thermal device and it’s developments like this that are critical to ensuring the US military maintains its warfighting edge.

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