The Elec­tronic Mate­rials Research Insti­tute (eMRI) at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity has signed a three-​​year coop­er­a­tive research agree­ment with the United States Army Research Lab­o­ra­tory at Adelphi, Md., to design graphene-​​based tech­nology for use in low-​​cost infrared imaging appli­ca­tions for the military.

The project is in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Physics Srinivas Sridhar, director of the eMRI, and Assis­tant Pro­fessor of Physics Swastik Kar — both in the Col­lege of Sci­ence — will col­lab­o­rate on the project with Dr. Nibir Dhar of DARPA and Dr. Madan Dubey of the Army Research Laboratory.

The project dove­tails with Northeastern’s focus on use-​​inspired research that solves global chal­lenges in health, secu­rity and sus­tain­ability. “Graphene-​​based tech­nology can poten­tially rev­o­lu­tionize infrared cam­eras used in a variety of mil­i­tary and civilian appli­ca­tions,” Sridhar said.

Graphene, which is known for being a supe­rior thermal and elec­tric con­ductor, is com­posed of carbon atoms arranged in tightly bound one-​​atom-​​thick hexa­gons. Two physi­cists won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for their ground­breaking exper­i­ments with the so-​​called “mir­acle mate­rial of the 21st cen­tury,” which they say is “some 200 times stronger than struc­tured steel.”

The North­eastern team, which has devel­oped novel approaches toward syn­the­sizing the nano­ma­te­rial, will help design graphene-​​based bolome­ters, which mea­sure heat gen­er­ated by objects or people. The mil­i­tary, Sridhar said, may use the bolome­ters in night vision gog­gles or for thermal body imaging and may even­tu­ally incor­po­rate the tech­nology into smart phones.

The long-​​term goal, he noted, is to license and mass-​​produce the novel tech­nology for low-​​cost infrared cameras.

Pro­viding a thermal camera to each sol­dier requires afford­able and low SWaP (size, weight and power) cam­eras,” said Dhar, Pro­gram Man­ager at DARPA Microsys­tems Tech­nology Office. “DARPA has a pro­gram to address both these attrib­utes. Inno­va­tion is needed to increase the sen­si­tivity of bolome­ters while main­taining these attrib­utes. Nanos­truc­tured mate­rials such as graphene may pro­vide a low-​​cost and low-​​SWaP alternative.”

A low-​​cost, graphene-​​based thermal sensor tech­nology could be very ben­e­fi­cial to the Army,” noted Dr. Paul Amirtharaj, the Elec­tronics and RF Divi­sion Chief of the Army Research Lab­o­ra­tory in Adelphi, Md.

The mis­sion of the eMRI is to syn­er­gize and cat­alyze research and edu­ca­tion in mate­rials for nano-​​, bio– and info-​​technologies, with a par­tic­ular focus on nano­ma­te­rials for energy, med­i­cine and elec­tronic and pho­tonic nanostructures.