There has been a lot of talk about Gen 4 night vision in recent years.
Rapid technological developments, and false starts have given rise to some substantial misconceptions about Gen 4 night vision. Thankfully, Night Vision Australia is here to help clear the air.
There are four Generations of night vision. However, they are numbered from Gen 0 to Gen 3. The first generation of night optics were developed during the Second World War. The first era of development was largely plagued with units that were impractical thanks to bulky power supplies and cumbersome illuminators. The designation of ‘generations’ begins around this time, largely credited to the US Army.
In the late 90’s the US Army did make a claim to the creation of Gen 4 technology. Night vision technicians removed the ion barrier film, creating a “filmless” tube. The ion barrier was introduced during the leap from Gen 2 to Gen 3. It was designed to protect the micro-channel plate (the device responsible for light amplification) from the gallium arsenide that was also added to improve light sensitivity.
They claimed this was the pivotal next step in the development of night vision technology. This new advancement was designed to reduce halos while increasing sensitivity, signal-to-noise ratio and resolution. In layman’s terms, it was a huge jump for overall improved performance.
For a while performance was improved, and it seemed that Gen 4 had indeed been achieved. However the lack of an ion barrier in Gen 4 tubes eventually led to high failure rates. Ultimately the U.S. Army recanted the existence of the Gen 4 definition.
The high failure rates of these tubes spurred the ITT Corporation to improve upon existing technology by creating a “thin-filmed” tube. By reducing the thickness of the ion barrier, ITT was able to maintain the reliability of Gen 3 while still delivering on the US Army’s performance requirements intended for next generation devices. This resulted in the production of the Gen 3 thin-filmed tube, now considered the highest performing night vision tube available.
So as it stands Generation 4 is still yet ahead of us. With formidable leaps forward in technological development and the growing demand for high performance night optics, the next generational leap is only one crazy innovation away.
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