[Artem Litvinovich] wanted to see by heat vision like in the Predator movies. He not only succeeded but went on to see in color, medium-wave IR, short-wave IR, and ultraviolet using a very unique approach since his effort began back in 2009.
He started with a box based on the basic pinhole camera concept. In the box is a physical X-Y digitizer moving a photodiode to collect the thousands of points needed to create a picture. First all he got, due to the high signal amplification, was the 60 cycle hum that permeates our lives. A Faraday cage around the box helped but metal foil around the sensor and amplifier finally eliminated the noise. Now he had pictures in the near infrared (NIR).
Some years passed, he built a 3d printer, and updated the mechanism and the box. Using filters his system now could detect colors and NIR. But that wasn’t enough for [Artem]. As the project continued he added the ability to see ultraviolet and short-wave infrared.
The real challenge was seeing into the medium wave infrared (MWIR). Since these are the sensors used by heat-seeking missiles, the Japanese supplier wanted a ton of paperwork proving he wasn’t building something nefarious… like missiles.
[Artem], who lives in Moscow, turned to a local supplier to obtain sensors often used in Russian missiles. Sensor drift now caused problems and the pinhole no longer sufficed. He added a ZnSe lens in a 3D printed holder and straightened out the drift problem. He would like to tackle long-wave infrared but that requires liquid nitrogen cooling of the sensor. Hey, the missile sensor issue didn’t stop him so we won’t be surprised to see him succeed here as well.
This is a hack of major proportions, taking years to evolve, with multiple learning curves. An impressive feat and a project writeup well worth reading. Given his inventiveness and determination we anticipate he’ll work around the cooling problem before long.
[Our thanks to Nils Hitze for the tip.]