When you see in the movies or TV someone using night vision goggles, do you wonder if it is real or something that’s made up? Yes, it is real.
After World War II, Vladimir K. Zworykin developed the first practical commercial night-vision device at Radio Corporation of America (now more commonly known as RCA), intended for civilian use. Zworykin’s idea came from a former radio-guided missile. At the time of the development of this technology, infrared was commonly called black light, a term later restricted to ultraviolet.
The goggles enhance ambient visible light and convert near-infrared light into visible light which can be seen by the user; this is known as image intensification.
There are two types of night vision technology one is Thermal Imaging, and the other is Image Enhancement.
Traditional types of night vision devices use optoelectrical imaging enhancement. This uses a series of optical lenses and vacuum tubes, just like in very old TV sets, which work by sensing small amounts of infrared light and visible light, Light sources that are reflected off of objects, and then electronically amplifying that light into a glowing monochromatic green image. Green was considered the easiest color to look at for prolonged periods of time in the dark.
With thermal imaging optics, the sensors detect heat (or radiation) to help see in the dark. The radiation of the electromagnetic spectrum has varying wavelengths which can be interpreted as color. Short wavelengths have a very high amount of energy that can be seen as lighter colors. While longer wavelengths have lower amounts of energy that are seen as darker colors. Through thermal imaging devices, different shades of color are seen to find objects.
Newer image enhancement technologies will digitally enhance the image in a full-color display, by capturing available light on a digital image sensor. Called a CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) sensor found in modern digital cameras. Semiconductor devices serve as “electronic eyes” for the wearer.
Vast improvements in night optics over the last decade have meant clearer images, improved light amplification, as well as durability and portability.
Night vision was originally developed for warfare. Now this technology has many new applications for use in aeronautics, security cameras, maritime firefighting and search rescue, other uses for this technology will be sure to follow.