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

graphene detects cancer cells
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

Lasers and bovine breathalyzer help determine how much methane cows produce

Cow farts and belches don't sound like catastrophic threats, but they contribute to the massive amounts of methane in the atmosphere. Recently, scientists set out to establish the numbers.

These point-and-shoot cameras make your smartphone pics look like cave paintings

If your smartphone camera just isn't giving you the results you're looking for, maybe it's time to step up your game. The latest and greatest point-and-shoot cameras offer large sensors, tough bodies, and long lenses -- something no phone…
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.

We tried all the latest and greatest smartphones to find the best of 2019

Smartphones are perhaps the most important and personal piece of tech on the planet. That’s why it’s important to pick the best phone for your individual needs. Here are the best smartphones you can buy.

Having problems with your Xbox One console? We have the solutions

The Xbox One has evolved over the years, but so have its problems. Thankfully, we have solutions for some of the console's most enduring problems, whether you're experiencing issues with connectivity or your discs.
Emerging Tech

Researchers discover a way to make 3D printing 100 times faster using light

Researchers at the University of Michigan have invented a new method of 3D printing which is up to 100 times faster than conventional 3D-printing processes. Here's how it works and why it could prove a game-changer for 3D printing.
Emerging Tech

Yamaha’s new app lets you tune your motorcycle with a smartphone

It used to be that if you wanted to tune your motorcycle’s engine and tweak its performance, you needed specialized tools and even more specialized knowledge. Yamaha’s new Power Tuner app changes that.
Emerging Tech

Why wait? Here are some CES 2019 gadgets you can buy right now

Companies come to CES to wow us with their cutting edge technology, but only a few products are slated to hit the market right away. Here is our list of the best CES 2019 tech you can buy right now.
Emerging Tech

Drones: New rules could soon allow flights over people and at night

With commercial operators in mind, the U.S. government is looking to loosen restrictions on drone flights with a set of proposals that would allow the machines greater freedom to fly over populated areas and also at night.
Emerging Tech

Short film celebrates New Yorker’s amazing robot costumes

New York City resident Peter Kokis creates stunning robot costumes out of household trash. His designs are huge, heavy, and extremely intricate, and never fail to turn heads when he's out and about.
Emerging Tech

In a first for humankind, China is growing plants on the moon

Having recently landed a probe on the far side of the moon, China announced that it managed to grow the first plant on the moon, too. Here's why that matters for deep space travel.
Emerging Tech

Ford’s sweaty robot bottom can simulate 10 years of seat use in mere days

Ford has developed 'Robutt,' a sweaty robot bottom that's designed to simulate the effects of having a pair of human buttocks sitting on its car seats for thousands of hours. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…
Emerging Tech

Want to know which drones are flying near you? There’s an app for that

Want to know what that mysterious drone buzzing over your head is up to? A new system developed by AirMap, Google Wing, and could soon tell you -- via a map on your phone.