Infrared Contact Lenses

Graphene is made of a single layer of carbon atoms bonded together in a repeating pattern of hexagons. So thin it is considered only 2-dimensional, this so-called "emerging material" is currently being researched and explored by scientists around the globe. It comes as no surprise, then, that engineers at the University of Michigan are using graphene to explore the ways in which heat vision technology may be applied to contact lenses and cell phones. "Our work pioneered a new way to detect light," said Zhaohui Zhong, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, in a press release. "We envision that people will be able to adopt this same mechanism in other material and device platforms."

What is infrared light?

Back in 1800, William Herschel wanted to measure the temperature of colors, so he quite simply placed thermometers within each color of the visible spectrum. His experiment showed an increase in temperature from blue to red, yet he also noticed something more, something completely unexpected: His thermometer recorded an even warmer temperature just beyond the visible red. This, then, was how he discovered infrared light and the spectrum of colors which our eyes cannot see.

Today, with the help of instruments, such as night-vision goggles and infrared cameras, infrared waves of energy can be detected and generally they appear as waves emitted from warm objects and living beings, including humans and animals. Unlike the visible spectrum, this kind of infrared imaging requires a combination of technologies to detect various ranges of infrared radiation — near, medium and far — all at once. Plus, mid-infrared and far-infrared sensors typically need to be maintained at very cold temperatures. For these reasons, engineers have found it challenging to create new infrared technologies.

Amplification Through Insulation

Along with Ted Norris, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, Zhong and his graduate students decided against directly measuring the electrons freed whenever light hits the grapheme; this would be too small. Instead, they experimented with amplifying a new design that places an insulating barrier layer between two graphene sheets. The bottom layer had a current running through it. Meanwhile, the top layer responded to light by freeing electrons and creating positively charged holes. When the freed electrons slipped through the barrier and into the bottom layer of graphene, these positively charged holes produced an electric field that affected the flow of electricity on the bottom layer.

How to use Graphene with marking playing cards for infrared contact lenses?

This is a matter of material science, we are still studying.

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