Seeing the unseen: IISc researchers develop device to make infrared light visible

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Seeing the unseen IISc researchers develop device to make infrared light visible

In a significant stride towards enhancing infrared imaging technology, researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have engineered a pioneering device capable of converting infrared light into visible light. This breakthrough, detailed in their recent study published in *Laser & Photonics Reviews*, holds promise for applications spanning defence, communications, and scientific imaging.

Unveiling the Invisible

Human vision is limited to the visible spectrum, which encompasses light frequencies that appear as colors to the naked eye, starting from red. Infrared light, with frequencies lower than those of visible red light, remains invisible to us but carries crucial information, especially in fields like surveillance and astronomy.

The IISc team, led by Associate Professor Varun Raghunathan from the Department of Electrical Communication Engineering, tackled this limitation by designing a “nonlinear optical mirror stack” using gallium selenide, a 2D material. This innovation enables the conversion, or “up-conversion,” of short infrared wavelengths into the visible spectrum.

The Technology Behind the Innovation

Traditional infrared imaging relies on bulky and often restricted sensors, particularly in defence applications. The new device developed by IISc operates by mixing an infrared input signal with a pump beam, resulting in an output of visible light. Importantly, this process maintains the original properties of the infrared signal, ensuring coherence and fidelity in imaging.

“Gallium selenide was chosen for its high optical nonlinearity, allowing efficient up-conversion even with a thin layer just 45 nm thick,” explains Raghunathan. This slim profile not only enhances cost-effectiveness compared to conventional methods but also matches the performance of existing up-conversion systems.

Versatile Applications and Future Prospects

Jyothsna K Manattayil, the study’s first author, highlights the versatility of their device across a broad range of infrared wavelengths, from 1,400 nm to 1,700 nm. The team utilized advanced algorithms to optimize the device’s design, ensuring optimal performance for various applications.

Looking ahead, the researchers aim to expand the device’s capabilities to accommodate longer wavelengths of light and further boost its efficiency. By exploring alternative stack geometries, they seek to refine the technology for widespread adoption in infrared imaging without reliance on conventional sensors.

Impact and Implications

Raghunathan believes their innovation could revolutionize infrared imaging globally, potentially replacing bulky and restricted sensors with a more efficient and accessible alternative. The implications extend beyond defence and surveillance to fields like medical imaging and environmental monitoring, where enhanced visibility of infrared light could yield critical insights.

In conclusion, the development of this infrared-to-visible light conversion device marks a significant advancement in optical technology, positioning IISc at the forefront of innovation in photonics. As global interest grows in enhancing the capabilities of infrared imaging, the implications of this breakthrough are poised to reshape various sectors, offering new avenues for exploration and application.

This achievement underscores the importance of interdisciplinary research and innovation in pushing the boundaries of what is perceptible and accessible through advanced photonics technologies.

 

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