A team of researchers have developed a flexible, low-cost, transparent thermal sensor device using graphene that could be used for thermal imaging applications.
The team integrated silicon microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and graphene to create the device, which has the capability to detect the heat signature of a person at room temperature conditions, without the necessity of cryogenic cooling.
The team believes that further advances could lead to development of a more versatile device. The thermal sensor could also be built based on a single graphene layer, which would provide flexibility and transparency to the sensor. Additionally, simplifying the manufacturing process could help lower the cost of production of these sensors.
Movies have introduced the public to thermal imaging. Notably, in the movie “Predator,” an alien was shown as having the capability to view in infrared, which helped it to hunt down people. Heat-sensing devices are used in many applications; however, the devices developed so far are rigid and expensive.
For decades, people have considered the concept of possessing the power to view in infrared vision to attack enemy forces. This has led to infrared vision devices that are very useful for first responders and the military to work under smoky and dark conditions.
Infrared vision systems also help identify overheating circuits and equipment. However, most infrared vision systems are not able to create reliable images without the help of cryogenic cooling for filtering out noise in the form of background radiation. Adding cooling systems increases the bulkiness, and the cost of such systems.
Through this study, Tomás Palacios, Pablo Jarillo-Herrero and colleagues have developed a low-cost, flexible thermal sensor based on graphene that could be used for infrared vision systems.
The study paper entitled, "Graphene-Based Thermopile for Thermal Imaging Applications," has been published in ACS’ journal, Nano Letters.
The MIT/Army Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, the Office of Naval Research, the Solid State Solar Thermal Energy Conversion Center (MIT), the MIT Center for Integrated Circuits and Systems, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the National Science Foundation have provided funding for this study.