Detector could vastly improve night-vision goggles

"Detection of infrared and terahertz light has numerous uses, from chemical analysis to night-vision goggles, and body scanners used in airport security," says Michael Fuhrer. (Credit: US Air Force/Flickr)

Researchers have developed a light detector that could revolutionize chemical-sensing equipment and night-vision technology.

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The detector, which is based on the interconnected carbon atoms in graphene, can sense light over an unusually broad range of wavelengths, including terahertz waves—between infrared and microwave radiation, where sensitive light detection is most difficult.

“We have demonstrated light detection from terahertz to near-infrared frequencies, a range about 100 times larger than the visible spectrum,” says Professor Michael Fuhrer of the School of Physics at Monash University. The research could lead to a generation of light detectors that could see below the surface of walls and other objects.

“Detection of infrared and terahertz light has numerous uses, from chemical analysis to night-vision goggles, and body scanners used in airport security.”

The research is published in Nature Nanotechnology.

Speed and sensitivity

Current technological applications for terahertz detection are limited, as they need to be kept extremely cold to maintain sensitivity. Existing detectors that work at room temperature are bulky, slow, and expensive.

Fuhrer says the new detector worked at room temperature and was already as sensitive as any existing room-temperature detector technology in the terahertz range, but was also more than a million times faster.

“The combination of sensitivity and speed for terahertz detection is simply unprecedented,” he says.

Source: Monash University