Flinders University researchers develop low-cost polymer for thermal imaging lenses, opening new manufacturing possibilities

Researchers at Flinders University have made a significant breakthrough in the field of thermal imaging by developing a new low-cost material that can be used to create lenses. The current materials used for thermal imaging lenses, such as germanium and chalcogenide glasses, are expensive and in limited supply. The team at Flinders University has now created a polymer material using sulfur and cyclopentadiene that has the ability to transmit infrared light, making it an ideal candidate for thermal imaging applications.

The researchers emphasize that this new material offers a combination of high performance, low cost, and efficient manufacturing. By utilizing sulfur, which is abundantly available in petroleum refining, and cyclopentadiene, derived from low-cost materials produced in petroleum refining, the team has developed a cost-effective alternative to the expensive and scarce materials currently used for thermal imaging lenses.

The polymer material created by the researchers has several advantages. Firstly, it has the highest long-wave infrared light transparency ever reported for a plastic. Additionally, the raw materials required to produce the lenses are highly affordable, with the building blocks for a 1 gram lens costing less than 1 cent. The material can be rapidly molded into various shapes, such as lenses, which is a faster process compared to the slow milling methods currently used for lens production.

In terms of applications, the researchers believe that this novel material has the potential to expand the use of thermal imaging to industries that were previously limited by the high cost of lenses. These industries include defense, security and surveillance, medicine, electrical engineering, space exploration, and autonomous vehicle operation. The polymer lenses can be used to magnify thermal images and can also serve as a camouflage to conceal and protect thermal imaging equipment. The material’s transparency to infrared light allows for clear imaging using thermal cameras, making it suitable for defense operations and wildlife surveillance.

The study also highlights some scientific advancements, including the design of a new reactor that enables the key reaction between sulfur and cyclopentadiene. The researchers were able to overcome the challenge of using gaseous monomers, which was previously considered impossible by other researchers in the field. The study also involved quantum mechanical calculations to gain insights into the material’s transparency to infrared light, which can aid in the future design of lenses with even better properties.

Overall, this breakthrough at Flinders University represents a significant development in the field of thermal imaging. The discovery of this low-cost polymer material opens up new possibilities for advanced manufacturing applications in various industries, paving the way for exciting advancements in thermal imaging technology in the coming years.

Source: Flinders University

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