Exemplary embodiments provide an infrared (IR) retinal system and method for making and using the IR retinal system. The IR retinal system can include adaptive sensor elements, whose properties including, e.g., spectral response, signal-to-noise ratio, polarization, or amplitude can be tailored at pixel level by changing the applied bias voltage across the detector. "Color" imagery can be obtained from the IR retinal system by using a single focal plane array. The IR sensor elements can be spectrally, spatially and temporally adaptive using quantum-confined transitions in nanoscale quantum dots. The IR sensor elements can be used as building blocks of an infrared retina, similar to cones of human retina, and can be designed to work in the long-wave infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum ranging from about 8 .mu.m to about 12 .mu.m as well as the mid-wave portion ranging from about 3 .mu.m to about 5 .mu.m.
This invention was made with government support under Grant Nos. ECS-0401154 and IIS-0434102 awarded by the National Science Foundation, and Grant No. DE-AC52-06NA25396 awarded by the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration. The government has certain rights in the invention.