Researchers working at several universities in Ankara have collaborated to develop an entirely national smart infrared camera technology. This new technology, which works in near-infrared wavelengths (SWIR) where the human eye cannot see, may make flight cancellations due to fog a thing of the past.
Bilkent University Nanotechnology Research Center (NANOTAM) Chairman Ekmel Özbay stated that the new-generation smart infrared camera will be used in the aerospace, aviation, defense, security, health care and transportation sectors.
Noting that fog-related flight cancellations are a major problem at airports, Prof. Özbay explained how the SWIR cameras would be used. “When visibility with the naked eye is dangerously decreased in foggy conditions, the takeoff, cruising and landing of airplanes can take place safely with the assistance of the camera we have developed. This type of camera can see the illuminated markings on an airstrip even in such weather. The same is true in the presence of dust and smoke, making it possible to use the cameras in the field of firefighting, with burning areas normally hidden from view by dense smoke now plainly revealed. ”
The SWIR cameras obtain images using the infrared light emitted from the atmosphere even when it is dark, and so are also able to work at night.
Currently, said Prof. Özbay, the basic technology used in night vision systems is the thermal camera. “But,” he continued, “traditional cooled infrared cameras present two important problems. First of all, for these cameras to operate at high performance levels, they need to work in very cold (-200 ˚C) conditions, and a great deal of electric power is necessary for such cooling. Plus, due to the operation’s wavelength, the image resolution obtained is low. The camera we have developed displays high sensitivity even at room temperature. And because of the shorter wavelengths being used, we were able to decrease the distance between detectors to 15 micrometers. In this way, we obtained a further increase in resolution. Such cameras can now be produced in smaller sizes, and they consume less power, run faster and provide quality imaging even in very dark conditions.”
One of the most important advantages of the new-generation SWIR camera is that the wavelength used can pass through glass. Thus, this type of camera can easily be embedded to be used in land, sea and air vehicles. Similarly, in traffic control applications, for example, the interior of a vehicle can be viewed by means of a camera situated outside of it.
“We are currently working on developing larger-format (in terms of megapixels) and low-noise photo-receivers, and our goal is to further enhance the sensitivity as well as the resolution of the next generation of cameras,” said Prof. Özbay. “We will do our best and work extremely hard to be a source of pride for Turkey in the area of science and technology. In the short run, we aim to transform this advanced technology into commercial products in many fields.”