Night-vision technology has been helping us see in the infrared for decades. It's one of the most essential tools for the military, commonly used by police, firefighters and other professionals who work at night, is often used in ghost hunting explorations and was most famously showcased in the 1987 film Predator.
Thermal imaging can also be used for constructors, engineers and even researchers who want to map the pyramids of Egypt to uncover its secrets.
So, it's safe to say that, in this age of technology, fictitious aliens aren't the only ones who possess this power. However, just because it exists does not mean that it doesn't come at a cost.
Many of the current thermal imaging systems currently on the market require cryogenic cooling systems that remove the "noise" from images in order to make the subject visible. That means that adding cryogenic systems only add to the cost and weight of night-vision devices.
However, researchers have discovered that they could use graphene, a thin layer of tightly packed carbon, along with silicon microelectromechanical systems (MES) to create a low-cost night-vision device.
With funding from the MIT/Army Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, the Office of Naval Research, the Solid State Solar Thermal Energy Conversion Center (MIT), the MIT Center for Integrated Circuits and Systems, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the National Science Foundation, researchers Tomás Palacios, Pablo Jarillo-Herrero and colleagues tested the graphene-based device, which in fact was able to detect a person's heat signature at room temperature.
Published in the journal Nano Letters, the researchers found that, by trading in the cooling system for just a single layer of graphene, thermal sensors can be developed that are more transparent and flexible. Not to mention, it would reduce manufacturing costs.
Tech in sci-fi movies may already exist, but this new research may help thermal sensors to be more affordable for consumers and professionals.
Source: American Chemical Society