Night Vision Technology

Night vision devices sense radiation on a wavelength that is not visible to the human eye. They then convert the image to one that is visible.

There are three ways night vision devices can work:

  • Image Intensification by magnifying what little light is reflected from the target
  • Thermal Imaging by collecting the heat waves from the target
  • Active Illumination by image intensification, plus adding some light of its own to the target; gives off a detectable light signature in the process

Image Intensification

Image intensification works by capturing light on a charged photocathode plate. This creates a pattern of electrons that are converted by specialized equipment to a different light frequency that is visible to the human eye. The equipment then provides a picture of what was previously “invisible” to the operator.  All image intensified night vision products produce a green image. Image intensified night vision devices have been created to different standards of quality and technical advancement.  These levels are known as Generations. 

GEN I

Gen I is one of the early examples of this technology offering a series of 3 connected image intensification (I2) tubes.  This technology dates back to around the 1960s and these devices are relatively large and heavy when compared to newer more advanced generations.   Gen 1 devices offer a clear image near the center of the viewing area but may have some distortion near the edges. 

GEN II

Gen II technology began with the introduction of the microchannel plate (MCP) electron multiplier.  The MCP amplified the electrons that passed through it and eliminated the need for multiple back-to-back tubes. These amplified electrons resulted in an increase of amplified light which provided a brighter and sharper image.  The MCP ushered in significant advancements surrounding I2 technology and offered enhanced image quality in smaller, more portable devices, including handheld and helmet-mounted goggles.

GEN III

Gen III night vision brings with it 2 major advancements developed in the late 70s and early 80s.  Gallium arsenide (GaAs) photocathode offered users the ability to detect objects at greater distances and in much darker envirnoments and an ion-barrier film increased the opertional life of the tube to 10,000 hours.   

GEN III FILMLESS

Gen III unfilmed (filmless) technology removes the ion barrier and gates the system.  This new method of image transmission reduces bright object halo effects and provides increased sensitivity, higher signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and sharper image resolution, all while operating at lower voltages.