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Is It Possible to See Infrared Light?

Updated May 16, 2024
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Mammals can see only a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum and can’t perceive light with a wavelength longer than 700 nanometers. That’s why we can’t see well in the dark. Yet this hasn't stopped scientists from trying to change the nature of our vision.

In a 2019 study on mice, researchers based in the United States and China injected the rodents' eyes with nanoparticles, which acted like tiny antennae to widen the spectrum of wavelengths they could see, specifically infrared. Essentially, the nanoparticles converted infrared to shorter wavelengths, so that the infrared appeared as green light to the mice. The effect lasted for several weeks before safely wearing off. Further experimentation will continue, but researchers say it could lead to improved night vision for other animals (including humans) and possibly new ways to treat color blindness.

A new way of seeing:

  • As a result of the nanoparticle experimentation, some mice did develop cloudy corneas after the injections, but the condition disappeared within a couple of weeks. The team found no other evidence of damage to the mice’s eyes.

  • Scientists plan to test dogs in the future, theorizing that if successful, these night vision injections could create “super dogs” that would make it far easier to apprehend criminals lurking in the darkness.

  • Experts say the technique is likely to work on humans, but it’s unclear how sharp the resulting infrared vision would be. There’s also concern that such injections might damage delicate eye structures.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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