Scientists have found a way to make infrared light visible to humans


Color vision

A team of engineers built a system that allows people to see colors in the infrared spectrum, as long as they look through a camera lens.

We can see light with wavelengths within the visible spectrum, a fairly narrow band of colors that falls between ultraviolet and infrared light. But Tel Aviv University researchers have built a system that, mounted on a camera, makes the colors of infrared light visible to us, according to research published in the journal Reviews of lasers and photonics. It makes a normally expensive science tool more accessible, to the point where it could be used for photography or citizen science.

New world

The team says the device can be used to visualize gases such as hydrogen, carbon and sodium, all of which can glow brightly in infrared. It can also display scenes in nature, which tend to look otherworldly under infrared light.

“[Visible light is] only a small part of the electromagnetic spectrum, which also includes radio waves, microwaves, X-rays and more, ”Tel Aviv physicist Michael Mrejen said in a press release. “In each of these parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, there is a great deal of information about ‘color-coded’ materials that have hitherto been hidden from view.”

Fun and games

Aside from photography and science, scientists suggest some slightly more consequential uses for their low-cost infrared technology.

“So an environmental monitoring satellite could ‘see’ a pollutant emitted from a facility,” co-author Haim Suchowski said in the statement, “or a spy satellite would see where the explosives or uranium are hidden.”

READ MORE: The new technology allows cameras to capture colors invisible to the human eye [Tel Aviv University]

More information on infrared: The new telescope will observe the entire southern sky with infrared


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