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New-look infrared lens shines a light on future technology and manufacturing

A) Top and side view of 0.8-mm thick 67-poly(Sr-CPD) polymer sheet. B) 3D-printed protective casing for FLIR camera. The 67-poly(Sr-CPD) polymer sheet was used to conceal and protect the front of the FLIR camera. C) Visible image of canine taken with FLIR E6 camera in household lighting. D) LWIR image of canine taken with no polymer sheet. E) Long-wave infrared image of canine taken through 0.8-mm thick 67-poly(Sr-CPD) polymer sheet in household lighting. F) Visible image of chickens taken in low light at night. G) LWIR image of chickens taken in low light at night with no polymer sheet. H) Long-wave infrared image of chickens taken through 0.8-mm thick 67-poly(Sr-CPD) polymer sheet in low light at night. All LWIR images were taken with a FLIR E6 thermal camera over a wavelength range of 7.5–13 µm. credits: Advanced Optical Materials (2023). DOI: 10.1002/adom.202300058

Researchers at Flinders University have discovered a new low-cost material that can be made into lenses for thermal imaging—pointing to new advanced manufacturing applications for this powerful technology.

Thermal and infrared imaging are used in many industries including defense, security and surveillance, medicine, electrical engineering, space exploration and autonomous vehicle operations—but the materials required are expensive and becoming more difficult to find.

Lower cost alternatives are needed so a multi-disciplinary team in chemistry and physics at Flinders University has developed a solution in an entirely new polymer material made from sulfur and cyclopentadiene. They say the high-performance polymers have the unique ability to transmit infrared light.

“The material combines high performance, low cost and efficient manufacturing,” says Ph.D. candidate Sam Tonkin, first author in a new article in the Advanced Optical Materials journaling.

“It has the potential to expand the use of thermal imaging to new industries which were previously limited by the high cost of germanium or chalcogenide lenses. This is a rapidly developing field which will see exciting advances in the next few years,” he says.

Sulfur is produced in many millions of tons in petroleum refining. Billions of tons are available in geological deposits. It is plentiful and cheap.

Cyclopentadiene is also derived from low-cost materials produced in petroleum refining.

The lenses used for thermal imaging are currently made from germanium or chalcogenide glasses. Germanium is an element in short supply and it is very expensive. Some germanium lenses can cost thousands of dollars.

Chalcogenide glasses also have disadvantages. For example, they are often made

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