science tech laser refrigerator laser_cooling optical_refrigeration engineering night_vision satellites in_theory
Lasers Eyed To Cool Satellite Cameras, Night-Vision Goggles

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by Charles Q. Choi

Instead of using lasers to heat targets, now researchers are shooting light beams that cool what they shine on.

Scientists want to see if novel refrigerators based on this research could reach temperatures just a few degrees above the coldest possible—absolute zero.

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science tech optics polymers military darpa lens eyes uavs night_vision
Eagle Eyes at a Feather’s Weight: New Optics Lightening Military’s Load

by Michael Keller

A new artificial lens that mimics the one found in human eyes is set to dramatically lower the weight of night-vision goggles, laser rangefinders and cameras aboard micro unmanned aerial vehicles that soldiers and marines must carry in the field.

Optics and materials engineers have been working for a decade on a process that places thousands of transparent polymer layers on top of each other to make what’s called a gradient-index (GRIN) lens.

It’s the same method that humans and some other animals have evolved to build the lens in their eyes. In the natural version, thousands of layers of clear protein layers are deposited one on top of the other to allow light through and focus images onto the retina.

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Seeking Heat: Army Project Working to Recognize Faces Through Thermal Imaging

by Morgen E. Peck

Imagine this scenario in a combat zone. An insurgent plants an explosive device on a road in the middle of the night under the veil of darkness. Meanwhile, a night-vision surveillance camera records every moment. The insurgent turns several times toward the camera, but he’s a blotchy, spectral smear. The heat signature from his face is full of information, but ultimately, it’s useless because there’s no way to run it through a mug shot database.

Being able to take a thermal image and find a match for it in a repository of photos that were taken in normal light would be a significant advance for the U.S. military. That’s why they’ve begun building a system capable of doing just that.

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