Graphene was discovered by the University of Manchester, the birthplace of the digital computer and also home to a part of the population who end each sentence with the word “like”. Although in Cheadle you might be called “duck”, which is another way of referring to someone without using their name. Anyway, Graphene was first discovered in 2004, a sheet of Graphene is harder than diamond and about 300 times stronger than a sheet of steel. It also conducts heat and electricity and is almost transparent. Graphene is the wonder material of the future.
There is only one issue and its a major issue, Graphene is very difficult to manufacture and attempts to do so have resulted in very low yields of differing qualities. Graphene is a crystal based material and needs to be ‘grown’ similar to the way how natural salts are formed.
Graphene’s properties are so multifaceted that it can be used to advance virtually every known industry, from aviation to battery technology and it could also be used to advance night vision technology by creating lenses that are ultra thin and incredibly more powerful than current processes allow.
Night vision goggles require a cryogenic cooling system to cut out interference in order to create a usable image. This also limits the infra-red range however multiple sensors get around this but the sensors and the cooling system add considerable bulk.
A research team at MIT have developed a new Graphene based thermal sensor that is just one atom thick, does away with the cooling system and array of sensors. They also claim it could be scaled up for production.
MIT researchers have stated that “Testing showed [the new sensor] could be used to detect a person’s heat signature at room temperature without cryogenic cooling. In the future, advances could make the device even more versatile.”
MIT may well be targeting lucrative military funding contracts in order to develop the theory into a production reality. But there may well be many other commercial spin-offs.
One such spin-off could see Graphene based night vision technology being offered for future autonomous vehicles or even for use as a large heads-up display.
Because Graphene based night vision technology will be able to offer superior clarity, literally turning night into day, less bulky systems will be cheaper to manufacture and could be offered as optional extras… for your Vauxhall Corsa.
Mercedes already offer night vision technology for the S Class, however because Graphene is transparent it will be possible to create an entire front window screen with a layer of Graphene no more than one atom in thickness and effectively turn it into a huge night vision lens.
However the only known commercial use for Graphene so far can be found in Graphene infused printer powered. Many leaps have yet to be made before Graphene lives up to its potential.