Superior Sensing

Cars that brake in response to road hazards, without driver input. High tech cameras that monitor environments inhospitable to humans. Drones that track and measure pollution. Technology is helping us see what human eyes can’t.


The limits of the human eye

Whether you’re surveying arctic ice formations or crops, whether you’re inspecting food or pharmaceuticals, whether you’re maintaining industrial machinery or examining insulation in homes, your eyes can only tell you so much.

Uncovering ways to see more with every lens, to develop systems that show detailed overlays of data can advance everything from agriculture to travel to archaeology and beyond.

With the human eye confined to visible light, we’ve long used imaging system to see further, to see more. But the optical systems available until recently often limited what we were able to see, opening up the ultraviolet world but closing off the infrared, and vice-versa.


Making the invisible visible

At SCHOTT, scientists are driving research into optical sensor technology, in particular the development of hyperspectral and multi-spectral imaging systems, which gather and interpret light from across the electromagnetic spectrum.

These optical sensor technologies interpret and display this light in a way that humans can understand. Hyperspectral systems render multiple data points into each pixel in an image that is deeply layered and full of information. Multi-spectral systems gather multiple wavelength ranges through the same lens, reducing the size and weight of the equipment.

Manufacturers can see process flaws like excess heat and monitor the condition of machinery for cracks or damage.

In the pharmaceutical industry, optical sensor applications can detect whether the components of medicines have been mixed properly, and whether individual drugs or drug ingredients are counterfeit. In food, UV and infrared light can reveal whether fish is fresh, and whether apples are bruised before sale.

In each of these applications, the glass optical components must be customized to the task. The transmission, refractive index, and even the thermomechanical properties of glass can all vary based on the application and where the work is done.


For example, night vision goggles might require high pass through of infrared or visible light. A drone exploring the arctic will need different lens properties than one uncovering ruins in a humid South American jungle.


“Our latest IR glasses exhibit transparency from the visible through the long-wave IR. In advanced IR sensors this enables miniaturized as well as large scale infrared imaging solutions – e.g. chalcogenide optics 200 mm in diameter. Our R&D team in Duryea, PA is prepared to meet the increased market demand with the next generation IR materials.”

— William James, Head of Materials Development NA


Overcoming limits

Your car is the next frontier. Autonomous driving requires an incredible amount of sensor technology to detect other cars on the road, weather conditions, and to navigate unexpected situations, like a deer in the road at night. Each action will rely on infrared and near-infrared light to distinguish between hazards. But each feature requires a different kind of optical system to gather the right data.

Beyond cars, advanced imaging systems are appearing in more and more consumer applications. With the right choice of materials, we don’t have to accept the limits of the human eye.

Let’s improve visibility.

What’s your next


William James
Research & Development
SCHOTT North America, Inc

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