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By Lumistar's Chief Scientist

February 15, 2015

Humans Can See Infrared Light Thought Impossible

Lumistar - Blog - Infrared Vision

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, were able to get subjects to see in the infrared with the naked eye. Researchers used infrared laser beams (pure focused infrared beams) at different wavelengths to conduct their experiments. The key to their safety in these experiments and ultimately it’s usefulness in medicine was using a less powerful infrared laser beam, not one that can damage the retina like conventional laser pointers used in lecture halls or as toys.

There were reports in the past of humans could see infrared light in scientific literature during experiments, but they were unexplained and thus the myth remained human retinas were incapable of seeing ‘invisible’ infrared. For researchers at Washington U. to conduct their experiments, laser pulses of different duration were delivered with the same number of photons, defined as the particles that make up light whether visible or invisible like infrared. Their findings: if the infrared laser pulse was short enough to ‘stack’ the photons picked up by the photoreceptors in the retina, two photons hitting the retina instead of one, it caused the invisible wavelength to mimic a visible wavelength half it’s strength, becoming a wavelength visible to the naked eye. The key is to get the beam in the visible spectrum or the ‘rainbow’ which is in the 400-700 nanometer range. At near infrared (NIR) 1,000 nanometer wavelength, with two photon hits, it became a 500 nanometer photon thus in the visible wavelength range. By making the pulses short in order to bombard the retina the subjects didn’t see ‘pulses’ but instead saw a duration of light. In standard vision, only one photon is absorbed at a time by your photoreceptors on the back of the retina, which then create a molecule called a photpigment read by the nerves leading to the brain creating vision.  The benefit to all this is whereas using visible-wavelength lasers might damage the retina in potential medical treatments, this technology will develop new tools to examine the healthy eye by stimulating specific parts of the retina to see if it is properly functioning. By doing so doctors can learn more about our eye’s structure and function not only in healthy eyes but in people with retinal diseases such as macular degeneration.

In case you were wondering, all 30 volunteers described infrared as very short pulses of pale green light and longer pulses of reddish light.

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  1. I like this post especially, very interesting.

    Comment by plenosuz — February 15, 2015 @ 16:36


  3. Been following your blog and it’s been a journey along the infrared spectrum. Wish I could hangout more. Please consider posting more often.

    Comment by Looking good! — February 17, 2015 @ 14:22


  5. Wonder what this is leading too…

    Comment by visit blog — February 26, 2015 @ 16:41


  7. But photons are lighter than electrons and therefore has an advantage over scanning microscopes.

    Comment by Infra — March 7, 2015 @ 17:51


  9. Does this mean I will now be able to see through clothes?

    Comment by looking for camera — June 15, 2015 @ 09:50


  11. @looking: No.

    Comment by Lumistar — June 15, 2015 @ 10:55


  13. Heya i am for the first time here. I came across this board and I find It truly useful & it helped me out much.

    I hope to give something back and aid others like you aided me.

    Comment by Ronald — June 15, 2015 @ 23:48


  15. I have trouble seeing in normal light. Just saying.

    Comment by prupont — August 29, 2015 @ 01:06


  17. Metabolism may effect the phenomena. Just a thought.

    Comment by Henry A. — September 29, 2015 @ 09:14


  19. Thanks for this! Enjoyed. Cheers.

    Comment by Lola H. — September 29, 2015 @ 14:43


  21. I would like to learn about more animals that can see in infrared. Please consider in future post.

    Comment by Porter H. — September 29, 2015 @ 17:24


  23. What’s going down I’m new to commenting. I stumbled upon this and I’ve found It positively helpful and it has aided me loads. I’m hoping to contribute by commenting like its aided me.

    Great job.

    Comment by Enrique B. — September 30, 2015 @ 00:18


  25. Seeing in infrared is good for your health!

    Comment by Darwin E. — October 1, 2015 @ 05:42


  27. Eat plenty of carrots and you too can see infrared light!

    Comment by Ivory B. — October 1, 2015 @ 14:29


  29. It is basically crucial that you continue this blog!

    Comment by Zenaida C. — October 2, 2015 @ 09:47


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