Graphene discovery opens the doors to night-vision cars and infrared gesture detection

graphene detects cancer cells
AlexanderAlUS
Infrared night vision may be coming to your car, your laptop and even your smartphone according to a study recently published by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This advancement in thermal imaging technology is possible due to graphene, a flexible, single-atom-thin carbon material.

Graphene is composed of a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a repeating pattern of hexagons. The material is stronger than diamond, and is an excellent conductor of both electricity and heat. “It’s also one of the very best materials we know for infrared detection,” said MIT electrical engineer and study co-author Tomás Palacios. Recognizing the importance of these combined properties, the MIT team focused on graphene and how it could be used to build a new category of infrared devices. To create their thermal imaging system, the MIT researchers created a thermal sensor using use a square piece of graphene and a MEMs micromachine. The graphene-based sensor processes the incoming thermal signal and converts it to electrical signals that are transmitted to the rest of the device.

Graphene not only improves thermal detection, it also plays an important role in heat management, making it possible for the sensor to filter out background heat without using a cooling system. To dissipate heat, strips of graphene are being used to suspend the sensor away from the rest of the device. This arrangement lets the sensor detect a heat signature without requiring a refrigerant to keep the sensor’s environment cool. Using this setup, the MIT researchers were able to detect the heat signature of a human hand at room temperature without using any refrigerant.

This ability to detect a heat signature without the need for cooling is a significant advantage over existing thermal imaging devices, which are expensive and bulky because they require a refrigerant system for dissipating heat. The new self-cooling, graphene-based infrared technology paves the way for imaging systems that are smaller, flexible, and even transparent. The possibilites for such a system are almost limitless.

This new flexible, transparent thermal-imaging technology could make its way into automobile windshields, where it would provide a night vision view of the surroundings without obscuring the driver’s normal view of the road. It also can be used to create efficient and inexpensive infrared detectors that can easily identify hand- and body-based gestures. Although it takes a lot of processing power to track track the movement of a hand that blurs into its surroundings, movement detection is simplified with thermal imaging. Infrared detectors can easily identify the clearly defined contours of an object such as a hand, which stands out from its colder, inert background.

Researchers predict the technology could revolutionize the fields of computing and mobile phone technology. “For example, in the future, we can have infrared detectors integrated in every cellphone and every laptop. That means that in the future, you can control them just by waving your hand in front of them,” said Palacios speaking to Live Science. The researchers presented their work last month in the online jounral Nano Letters.

Emerging Tech

This fully autonomous $400 drone folds like a book, follows you like a paparrazzo

Having a drone that could follow you everywhere while taking high-quality images without crashing has been a flight of fantasy. With ZeroZero's Hover 2, not only can you have a fully autonomous 4K selfie drone, you can have it for $400.
Emerging Tech

Stronger than steel, thinner than paper, graphene could be the future of tech

Since its discovery, graphene has set the research world on fire. What exactly is it, though, and what could it mean for the future of tech? Here's everything you need to know about what could be the next supermaterial to take center stage.
Smart Home

Brew it fast, hot, and flavorful with our favorite coffee makers

Whether you're looking for a simple coffee maker to get you through the morning or a high-end brewer that will impress your taste buds and your friends, you'll find some of the best coffee makers around on this list.
Cars

From Rolls-Royce to Lamborghini, these are the most expensive cars in the world

If you recently discovered an oil reserve in your backyard, you probably have some extra cash to spend. Look no further, because we’ve rounded up the most expensive cars in the world.
Deals

The best iRobot Roomba deals to make cleaning your home a breeze

Keep your home clean without lifting a finger using a robot vacuum cleaner. These nine iRobot Roomba deals not only help you keep your home tidy, but many also come with advanced features such as automatic scheduling and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Emerging Tech

These Alexa-stuffed retro phones don’t listen until you take them off the hook

Looking for an Amazon Echo with a cool vintage touch? Los Angeles-based Grain Design is taking old, non-working antique phones and transforming them into amazing Alexa smart speakers.
Smart Home

This alarm clock uses targeted light and sound to wake you, but not your partner

The Wake v2 isn't like your typical bedside alarm. Instead, it wakes you by shining a soft light directly into your face, thereby not disturbing the person sharing a bed with you. Pretty smart, huh?
Emerging Tech

Believe it or not, this fire-proof exoskeleton isn’t designed for space marines

A company called Levitate Technologies has developed a fire-resistant upper body exoskeleton that’s capable of lowering exertion levels by up to 80 percent when you carry out manual work.
Emerging Tech

Intel’s new ‘neural network on a stick’ aims to unchain A.I. from the internet

To kick off its first developer conference in Beijing, Intel unveiled the second generation of its Neural Compute Stick -- a device that promises to democratize the development of computer vision A.I. applications.
Emerging Tech

Frogs regrow ‘paddle-like’ limbs when placed in a bioreactor

Frogs have partially regrown amputated limbs thanks to a bioreactor at Tufts University. By jump-starting tissue repair, the bioreactor helped the amphibians regenerate a bigger, more complete appendages than they usually do.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

From ISS resupply missions to a host of communication and scientific satellite launches, SpaceX has a busy year ahead. Here's a rundown of some of the company's most important missions slated for the next year.
Emerging Tech

China says it has developed a quantum radar that can see stealth aircraft

Chinese defense giant China Electronics Technology Group Corporation claims that it has developed a quantum radar that's able to detect even the stealthiest of stealth aircraft. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Glass orb packs all the constellations in the night sky into fancy desk ornament

Ever wanted to know more about the star constellations? A stunning new Kickstarter campaign, taking the form of a fancy desk ornament that re-creates the night sky in a glass orb, aims to help.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.