DARPA has awarded a $1.3 million grant to a team led by University of Central Florida researcher Debashis Chanda to fund the development of a next-generation IR detector that could be used in night vision, meteorology and space exploration. Dr. Debashis Chanda, assistant professor at the University of Central Florida's NanoScience Technology Center. Courtesy of UCF. DARPA is funding the UCF team's research for three-and-a-half years. Portable IR cameras have long been used by law enforcement, soldiers, firefighters and others to see in the dark or locate people by their body heat. But the blurry images those devices produce are sometimes nothing more than indistinct colored blobs. More powerful infrared detectors that produce more detailed images, ones typically used by NASA and defense agencies, are large, expensive and can only function at ultralow 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," Chanda said. "That is a big barrier." The team is working on an entirely new type of detector that relies on thin graphene, a one-atomic-layer thick, 2D material. Chanda envisions an IR detector that is small, portable and doesn't need to be cooled and produces high-resolution images. "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," Chanda said. "If you can take an infrared image in different spectral bands, you can extract much more information." DARPA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, responsible for the development of emerging military technologies.