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Night-vision goggle technology has become more effective, streamlined and nimble in the past 10 years. But what if you could ditch that bulky headgear and pop in a pair of night-vision contact lenses?

It may sound like science fiction, but such dime-sized, lightweight optics may be possible in the future, thanks to researchers at the University of Michigan who have created a material that absorbs infrared rays at room temperature and translates them into an electrical signal, much like a silicon chip works with visible light inside a digital camera.

Night-vision contact lenses are still years away, but the engineers working on the base material, Ted Norris and Zhaohui Zhong of Michigan’s College of Engineering, are building a simple camera to prove their material has commercial application.

“If we integrate it with a contact lens or other wearable electronics, it expands your vision,” Zhong said. “It provides you another way of interacting with your environment.”

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