Nano night vision

Seeing in the dark with regular eyeglasses

night vision 521 (photo credit: SHAMIL ZHUMATOV / REUTERS)
night vision 521
A team of scientists at Beersheba’s Ben- Gurion University of the Negev is taking a grant from the Israel National Nanotechnology Initiative to develop night-vision goggles based on nanotechnology. Instead of having to carry bulky and expensive night-vision systems on their helmets, soldiers using the technology, dreamed up by Prof. Gabby Sarusi and his team will carry a pair of regular glasses with a coating thinner than a hair.
Sarusi, who spent 17 years in the Israeli defense industry before joining Ben- Gurion University’s Ilse Katz Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, tells The Jerusalem Report that the film layer they aim to produce is partly based on nanotechnology and nanophotonics technology, and will convert infrared light, which the human eye cannot detect, into visible light, while still maintaining the sharpness of the image.
“We will use a smart layer based on nanophotonics technologies to change invisible light to visible,” Sarusi told Nanowerk News recently. “I know what the layer architecture should be and have selected the best builder for every aspect of the glasses. The result will be like seeing at night with full moonlight.”
By using a very thin layer, the image seen by the user remains sharp, avoiding the common problem of distortion when one wavelength of light, such as infrared, is converted to another wavelength, like visible light.
“The idea is that you have a very good image and then you make the conversion from infrared to visible light, and the fidelity of the image remains high,” Sarusi says. However, the glasses will only be effective over short distances.
The concept of converting infrared light to visible light differs from the technology used in traditional night-vision goggles, where night vision is achieved by amplifying light. This means that the quality of the final image is dependent on the amount of light available at the time.
For the curious, the greenish image that most people associate with night vision has nothing to do with the way that the light is altered, be it via conversion or amplification. Rather, the color comes from the use of phosphorous in the goggles’ display.
There are other teams around the world working on the same principles as the researchers at Ben-Gurion University, but so far they have only been able to reach a fraction of the efficiency in the conversion of infrared light. Sarusi says that his team will try to reach an efficacy level of more than 10 percent and therefore a much sharper image.
In addition to the film, the glasses will also feature a battery to power the conversion of light from one wavelength to another. Sarusi estimates that the glasses will cost a few hounded hundred dollars, compared to regular night-vision goggles that can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000. With so low a price, he predicts that they will also be attractive to users outside of the military.
Sarusi adds that while it might be possible to place the film on a larger surface, such as a car windshield, this could lead to visible light being blocked out. However, maybe in a few years’ time, it will be possible to develop a transparent film that could be placed on certain areas of the windshield.
Text your blood alcohol
Think you’re fit to drive after a night on the town? A team of Israeli and American entrepreneurs have developed the Alcohoot (, a breathalyzer which harnesses a smartphone to show the user his or her blood alcohol level.
The device, which will retail for around $100, still needs to pass the rigorous testing of the US Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Transportation before it can be sold to consumers.
The user blows air into the Alcohoot device, which is about half the size of an iPhone. The data is then wirelessly transmitted to the smartphone, where it is analyzed, taking into account the user’s age, gender, weight and height. The computing process takes about five seconds, at the end of which the user receives his or her blood alcohol level. The app offers several follow-up options, based on the user’s location determined via the phone’s GPS, such as suggesting numbers for local taxi companies or showing restaurants and cafés that are open nearby.
The user can also ask the app to calculate how long it would take for his or her blood alcohol level to reach a certain point. And there is also the option of calling a friend, based on the phone’s most frequently used numbers.
In addition, the user will be able to share the test results via Facebook and Twitter, or via mapping services.
The app and device will first be launched in the US and in France and Russia at a later date.
Rust energy
Solar power is often pitched as the energy source of the future, and while there are a number of solutions available today for catching the sun’s rays and turning them into energy, there is still the problem of storing that energy so that it can be harnessed when there is no sunlight.
Now, by combining the power of the sun with common rust (iron oxide), researchers at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology have found a new way to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, a discovery that could lead to cheaper and more efficient ways to store solar energy in the form of hydrogen-based fuels.
Solar cells using this technology could be able to provide power even when the sun isn’t shining, as opposed to the photovoltaic cells that are the industry standard today, which can only produce power in daylight.
One great advantage in using iron oxide as a semiconductor (a material that transmits electricity, but at a lesser rate than a conductor) is that it is far less expensive than rarer materials such as tellurium and indium, and yet, unlike the popular semiconductor silicon, it can oxidize water without being damaged.
“Our approach is the first of its kind,” Prof. Avner Rothschild, who led the study, told the American Technion Society last month. “We have found a way to trap light in ultrathin films of iron oxide that are 5,000 times thinner than typical office paper. This is the enabling key to achieving high efficiency and low cost. ”