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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency awarded $1.3 million to a UCF assistant professor and his team to fund the development of a next-generation infrared detector.

Debashis Chanda, an assistant professor at UCF's NanoScience Technology center and the College of Optics and Phonotics, and his team are working to develop an infrared detector that could potentially be used for night vision, meteorology and even space exploration. The award will fund the team's research for the next 3.5 years.

“We are working on a novel infrared detection and imaging technology. The detection mechanism is very different than what is being used now,” said Chanda in a press release.

Right now, most portable infrared cameras such as those used by police and firefighters produce extremely blurry images, sometimes the images are nothing more than blurry colored blobs. Other, more powerful infrared detectors such as the ones used by NASA are extremely large, expensive and only operate in low temperatures.

“The biggest problem is that most infrared detectors need cryogenic cooling, and in most cases you can’t carry a big cooling tank with you,” said Chanda in a press release. “That is a big barrier.”

Chanda plans to use graphene, a substance that's just one atomic layer thick, in order to create what Chanda envisions as a small, portable infrared detector that produces high quality images and doesn't have to be cooled.

“We came up with the idea that one can make graphene to strongly absorb light in the infrared domain and we showed that we can also tune the response electronically,” said Chanda in a press release. “If you can take an infrared image in different spectral bands, you can extract much more information.”

The team plans to work with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and St. Johns Optical Systems on the integration and packaging of the new device. DARPA has been previously known for technology related to the crewless Navy drone ship and workhorse robots that lug the heavy gear of soldiers.

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Alissa Smith is the News Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @thealissasmith or email her at AlissaS@centralfloridafuture.com.

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