March 10-23, 2000
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Infrared sensing gets even more high-tech

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Infrared sensing gets even more high-tech

Improved night vision through goggles that show glowing shapes moving in a shadowy landscape has civilian as well as military applications. Two U.Va. electrical engineering professors, Travis Blalock and Michael Reed, have won a grant of nearly $1.9 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to study ways of making infrared cameras more sensitive.

"We will focus on improving fundamental sensing technology rather than applications," Blalock said.

Adds Reed: "We're trying to make them more sensitive, cheaper, more compact and more highly integrated with electronic circuitry."

Infrared sensing -- also known as heat sensing or thermography -- is already advanced. But the Blalock-Reed research team plans to take it several steps further to create a wireless model of what's called a "microbolometer imaging array" that would eliminate problems such as loss of heat and sensitivity. Their "flying carpet" model would be levitated by electric field forces and have microelectronic parts small enough to fit on the head of a pin. Measurements would be taken during brief, touch-and-go contacts between the heat sensors and measurement electronics.

Along with the military uses in missile guidance systems and night vision aids, the technology's civilian uses include: wildlife observation and control, wildfire hot-spot detection, oil spill location, search and rescue, predictive maintenance of industrial machinery, circuit board analysis, crime fighting, navigational aids, and human and veterinary medicine.

For details, see


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