Researcher: Cell phones could double as night vision devices

May 4, 2010 by Aaron Hoover

( -- Call it Nitelite: The newest app for cell phones might be night vision.

A University of Florida engineering researcher has crafted a nickel-sized imaging device that uses organic light-emitting diode technology similar to that found in or laptop screens for night vision. But unlike night vision goggles, which are heavy and expensive, the device is paper-thin, light and inexpensive, making it a possible add-on to cell phone cameras, even eyeglasses, once it is enlarged.

"Really, this is a very inexpensive device," said Franky So, a UF professor of materials science and engineering. "Incorporating it into a cell phone might not be a big deal."

So is the lead author of a paper about the infrared-to-vision device that appeared in a recent issue of the journal . Do Young Kim, a postdoctoral associate in materials science and engineering, co-authored the paper and collaborated with So on the project.

Standard night vision goggles use a photocathode to convert invisible infrared light into . The electrons are accelerated under high voltage and driven into a phosphorous screen, producing greenish images of objects not visible to the eye in darkness. The process requires thousands of volts and a cathode ray tube-like vacuum tube made of thick glass. That is why the goggles tend to be bulky and heavy.

So's imaging device replaces the with several layers of organic semiconductor thin film materials. The structure is simple: It consists of a connected in series with an LED. When operating, infrared light photons are converted into electrons in the photodetector, and these photo-generated electrons are injected into the LED, generating visible . The device - versions range from millimeter- to nickel-size -- currently uses glass, but it could be made with plastics, which would make it lightweight.

Conventional night vision goggles or scopes weigh 1 to 2 pounds, with price tags ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Sized for cell phones, So said, his imaging devices weigh just a couple of ounces and would be inexpensive to manufacture because factories could use the same equipment used today to make laptop screens or flat-screen televisions.

So said other applications could include night vision technology for car windshields, or even for standard glasses to use at night.

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5 / 5 (3) May 04, 2010
a hole new generation of pervs will enjoy this.
not rated yet May 04, 2010
night vision eyeglasses? nice! I do search and rescue work and these things would be an improvement over headlamps or hand help flashlights.

As for cars, once they get past the "overloaded by the light from oncoming cars" these would give a nice heads up display that would give a longer distance view of people on the side of the road, animals, bicyclists, etc. It would improve safety, to be sure.
not rated yet May 04, 2010
If we can make this technology cheap and easy to distribute we can cut down on energy usage by massive amounts.
not rated yet May 04, 2010
I would like this for my small airplane.
not rated yet May 04, 2010
Cant wait for this to hit, Ill make millions selling "x-ray specs" on ebay.
not rated yet May 04, 2010
My old sanyo wideo camera had night vision 10 years ago, this is a logical progression.
Low light security cameras are cheap and available and use this tech, so it is hardly new!
May 04, 2010
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5 / 5 (1) May 04, 2010
All modern armies use IR to flag friendlies at night because IR technology has been out of reach until now.
not rated yet May 04, 2010
Thanks for the great update here

not rated yet May 05, 2010
This is more tech and cost than needed to obtain night vision from cellphones. The CMOS cameras now already in cell phones are sensitive to infrared, but have optical IR blocking filters installed. If you want more illumination, add an IR or visible LED to the phone, to shine light on the camera's point of view. Total cost changes by one less filter coating and one more cheap LED.

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