NGVs can now be printed much like solar cells.

In today’s battlefield, being equipped with night vision technology could make a difference to your survival. Although the technology saves lives, it has its shortcomings.

Night vision tech used in the modern battlefield today is compared to looking “through toilet paper tubes” on account of their drastically diminished peripheral view.

Even the L-3 Ground Panoramic NGVs, which are top of the line, used by U.S. special forces are cumbersome and heavy and require an external power source.

But now, thanks to a breakthrough made by researchers from the Australian National University, night vision goggles can be no thicker than a pair of regular sunglasses.

In conventional night vision goggles, near-infrared light and ambient low-level light is first collected by the goggle’s objective lens. The photons are then converted into electrons and are made to travel down a vacuum sealed pipe onto a plate which is studded with millions of tiny holes. When the electrons pass through these holes they set off a chain reaction which releases hundreds of other electrons, which are then made to hit a phosphorescent plate which creates the familiar green-tinted image.

Problem is, this process demands thousands of volts of electricity in order for the number of electrons to be effective.

The researchers in the Australian team used aluminum gallium arsenide nanostructures to replicate the vacuum tubes.

“We managed to fabricate very teeny, tiny structures. Those magic structures are capable [of] changing the intensity of the light, change the shape of the light, and, at the same time, change the colour of the light,” explained Mohsen Rahmani in an ANU video.

“Our eyes are capable only of seeing light in the visible spectrum. If we can fabricate an area of nanostructures on flat surfaces like glass, at the end of the day we will be able to convert invisible light in the nighttime or dark areas into visible light.”

Although the new system still requires an external source of power, it is however a fraction of conventional night vision goggles.

Furthermore, it can be produced as a thin film, similar to that of printed solar cells. Thanks to this technological upgrade, night vision goggles, (NGVs) need not be as bulky and heavy as before.

As you may have guessed, the team has submitted their findings to DARPA for funding the research.

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