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The human eye can see ‘invisible’ infrared light

Any science textbook will tell you we can’t see . Like X-rays and , waves are outside the .

[Light Spectrum]
The eye can detect light at wavelengths in the visual spectrum. Other wavelengths, such as infrared and ultraviolet, are supposed to be invisible to the human eye, but scientists have found that under certain conditions, it’s possible for us to see otherwise invisible infrared light.
Credit: Sara Dickherber


The research was made possible, in part, by the Kefalov team’s development of a tool that allowed the scientists to obtain light responses from retinal cells and photopigment molecules. That device already is commercially available and being used at several vision research centers around the world.

Funded by the (NEI) and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Research to Prevent Blindness, the , the TEAM project financed by the European Union and the Foundation for Polish Science. NIH grant numbers: R24EY021126, R01EY009339, R01EY019312, P30EY002686, P30EY011373 and R44AG043645.

Human infrared vision is triggered by two-photon chromophore isomerization

Palczewska G, Vinberg F, Stremplewski P, Bircher MP, Salom D, Komar K, Zhang J, Cascell M, Wojtkowski M, Kefalov VJ, Palczewski K. PNAS Online Early Edition, Dec. 1, 2014 doi:10.1073/pnas.1410162111

Washington University School of Medicine