Science

Crime fighting 'Superdogs' with in-built night vision could one day be a reality


Crime fighting ‘superdogs’ with in-built night vision could one day be created as scientists claim an injection of nanoparticles can give animals the ability to see infrared light

  • Scientists have successfully given mice the ability to see near infrared light  
  • An injection of nanoparticles expanded the natural range of an animal’s vision 
  • It lasted for ten weeks and scientists say it could next be trialled on dogs 
  • Researchers say police officers could project a pattern onto a lawbreaker’s’ body from a distance and the dog could catch them without disturbing other people  

Superdogs with infrared night vision could soon be created and used to chase down criminals. 

Scientists have successfully given mice the ability to see near infrared wavelengths of light for up to ten weeks thanks to an injection of nano particles into their eyes. 

Scientists are now saying dogs could be the next step, with humans the ultimate goal if the safety of the procedure can be ensured.  

‘If we had a super dog that could see near infrared light, we could project a pattern onto a lawbreaker’s’ body from a distance, and the dog could catch them without disturbing other people,’ Dr Han from the University of Massachusetts Medical School said.

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Organuc nanoparticles in a vial (pictured) convert invisible near-infrared light to intense blue light which can be seen by human eyes

Organuc nanoparticles in a vial (pictured) convert invisible near-infrared light to intense blue light which can be seen by human eyes

Night vision goggles are already an essential piece of equipment for soldiers, spies and sci-fi heroes but the nanoparticle injection can directly give animals the ability. 

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The researchers found the chemicals gave mice the ability to see more wavelengths of light than they can naturally.  

The results are to be [presented this week at the American Chemical Society (ACS) Fall 2019 National Meeting & Exposition.  

‘When we look at the universe, we see only visible light,’ says Dr Gang Han, the project’s principal investigator.

‘But if we had near-infrared vision, we could see the universe in a whole new way. 

‘We might be able to do infrared astronomy with the naked eye, or have night vision without bulky equipment.’

Researchers say police officers could project a pattern onto a lawbreaker's' body from a distance and the dog could catch them without disturbing other people (stock)

Researchers say police officers could project a pattern onto a lawbreaker’s’ body from a distance and the dog could catch them without disturbing other people (stock)

Most mammals can only detect light of wavelengths between 400 and 700 nanometers (nm). 

Near-infrared (NIR) light, on the other hand, has longer wavelengths – 750 nm to 1.4 micrometers.  

Upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs) were injected into their eyes which contain  the rare-earth elements erbium and ytterbium.

They can convert low-energy photons from near infrared light into higher-energy green light that mammalian eyes can see. 

To determine whether the injected mice could see and mentally process NIR light, the team conducted several physiological and behavioral tests. 

For example, in one test, the researchers placed the mice into a Y-shaped tank of water. 

One branch of the tank had a platform that the mice could climb on to escape the water. 

The researchers trained the mice to swim toward visible light in the shape of a triangle, which marked the escape route. 

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A similarly lit circle marked the branch without a platform. Then, the researchers replaced the visible light with NIR light.

‘The mice with the particle injection could see the triangle clearly and swim to it each time, but the mice without the injection could not see or tell the difference between the two shapes,’ says Dr Han.  

The success of the injections lasted for ten weeks but the researchers say improving the safety is of paramount importance before it can be used in humans.   

WHAT ARE THE USES OF RARE EARTH METALS?

Rare Earth metals, including Yttirium, have a variety of uses in the technological sector. 

Most of their applications focus around building and developing high-end tech. 

Yttirium – This metallic element is named after a Swedish town (Ytterby) where it was first discovered in the 18th Century.  

Yttrium oxide accounts for the element’s largest use. 

The oxide, as well as yttrium vanadate is used with europium to make phosphors to create the red colour in television tubes.

It is used in lasers that can cut through metals and and in white LED lights.

Yttrium oxide is added to the glass used to make camera lenses to make them heat and shock resistant. It is also used to make superconductors.  

Europium – Named after the continent on which it was discovered _Europe – this element has specialised uses.

As well as also being used in the production of the red colour in televisions, it can be used to create quantum memory chips to store information. 

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Europium is also used in the printing of euro banknotes. It glows red under UV light, and forgeries can be detected by the lack of this red glow.

Low-energy light bulbs contain a little europium to give a more natural light, by balancing the blue (cold) light with a little red (warm) light.

Terbium – This element was also discovered in the Swedish quarry in Ytterby. 

An alloy of terbium, dysprosium and iron lengthens and shortens in a magnetic field. 

This unusual property forms the basis of loudspeakers that sit on a flat surface, such as a window pane, which then acts as the speaker.

Dysprosium –  Dysprosium is also used in nuclear reactor control rods. 

It readily absorbs neutrons, and does not swell or contract when bombarded with neutrons for long periods. 

At high temperatures, dysprosium resists demagnetisation.

Demagnetisation is the process of removing magnetic characteristics from an object. 

This makes its alloys ideal for use in permanent magnets for motors, electric vehicles, generators, and wind turbines. 





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