There's an entire world our eyes miss, hidden in the ranges of light wavelengths that human eyes can't see. But infrared cameras can pick up the secret light emitted as plants photosynthesize, as cool stars burn and batteries get hot. They can see through smoke and fog and plastic.
But infrared cameras are much more expensive than visible-light ones. A new breakthrough by scientists with the University of Chicago, however, may one day lead to much more cost-effective infrared cameras - which in turn could enable infrared cameras for common consumer electronics like phones, as well as sensors to help automatic cars see their surroundings more accurately.
Collecting multiple wavelengths within the infrared gives you more spectral information - it's like adding colour to black-and-white TV. They tweaked the quantum dots so that they had a formula to detect short-wave infrared and one for mid-wave infrared. Then they laid both together on top of a silicon wafer. The resulting camera performs extremely well and is much easier to produce.