kSaria Corp. of Lawrence, Mass., has won an $850,000 US Navy Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) phase II contract sponsored by the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) to develop an automated device to clean multichannel fiber optic connectors used in harsh military environments. Aboard aircraft carriers, a variety of substances -- including chemicals, jet fuel, salt spray, antifreeze and other adhered particulates -- can contaminate multichannel fiber optic connectors when they are disconnected for servicing and cause signal loss, rebndering them virtually inoperable, kSaria said. Michael Hackert, NAVAIR fiber optics specialist and SBIR evaluation team member, said, "The field maintainability of fiber optic connectors is one of the remaining challenges impeding the widespread implementation of fiber optics in fail-safe Navy applications. This SBIR program is designed to address this challenge by developing a field service tool for quickly and thoroughly cleaning fiber optic connectors on the flight line to ensure their integrity and reduce aircraft downtime." The current method of removing such debris is to insert an alcohol-soaked, lint-free swab into the blind cavities of the multichannel connector, said Tony Christopher, vice president of engineering at kSaria. The new device will eliminate the threat of foreign-object damage, be less costly and less labor-intensive and require less training for technicians, and will be compatible with many connector types common in a military aerospace platform, he said. Early prototypes are expected for demonstration later in 2006, with subsequent versions planned for 2007.