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Night-vision windshields on cars might one day be possible with advanced thermal imaging technology based on flexible, transparent, atomically thin sheets of carbon, researchers say.

Thermal imaging lets people see the invisible infrared rays that objects shed as heat. Thermal imaging devices have helped soldiers, police, firefighters and others see in the dark and in smoky conditions so they can better do their jobs.

Currently, many thermal imaging devices need cooling systems to filter out background heat in order to create useful images. However, these cooling systems complicate the design of the devices, increasing their cost and bulkiness. [Top 10 Inventions that Changed the World]

Now researchers have developed a new thermal imaging system based on sheets of graphene, which are each made of a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb pattern. Graphene is extraordinarily strong—about 200 times stronger than steel by weight—and highly electrically conductive.

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