This device has very nearly the same sensitivity as cooled mid-infrared detectors, but achieves it at room temperature. The researchers have already been able to produce infrared sensors the size of a pinky nail, or a standard contact lens.
"If we integrate it with a contact lens or other wearable electronics, it expands your vision," Zhong said in the release. "It provides you another way of interacting with your environment."
Most of us are familiar with the military applications of infrared vision, which allows soldiers to see in the dark. But the technology also has medical applications, such as letting doctors monitor blood flow.
Whether the ability to see in the infrared is an attractive feature for the rest of us remains to be seen. But that may become a possibility since the fundamental mechanism underlying the technology could become a mechanism for other material and device platforms. Is infrared vision mode for Google Glass in the offing?
This story originally appeared on IEEE Spectrum.