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Better Filters Yield Better Sensor Performance

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Optical filters utilizing more of the spectral band maximize performance and spur innovations in weather satellites and lidar.


From weather satellites to lidar for self-driving cars, precision optical filters play a vital role in making sensors work. Today, the ability to interrogate more and more sections of spectrum promises enhanced capabilities for these and other applications. On the horizon are materials and techniques that could make precision optical filters tunable. However, performance, cost, and other issues must be addressed. An illustration of today’s state-of-the-art capabilities can be found in the next-generation weather satellite GOES-16, which began operating in late 2017. The satellite collects three times the data at four times the resolution of its predecessors, thanks to precision optical filters that span the spectrum, from blue at 470 nm to LWIR at 13.3 µm. “It does cover a broad spectral range with a number of high-performance bands, especially in the longwave and midwave [IR] that allows some additional details,” said Dave Harrison, business development manager for image and sensing at Materion Corp.’s Precision Optics, based in Westford, Mass. The company supplied the filters used in the satellite. The satellite’s Advanced Baseline Imager has 16 spectral bands, compared to five for previous GOES imagers. The increase is part of an overall trend of more spectral bands in instruments. For every band, the goal is to maximize transmission of a spectral region and block everything else, with a sharp slope in the transition region. This is accomplished by putting down multiple layers of coatings on a substrate, with perhaps 100 or more of the right thickness and composition needed to create the desired spectral response.

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Photonics Spectra
Aug 2018
optical filters
An optical element that blocks or transmits a selected wavelength of light. Optical filters can either be absorption filters or interference filters. Absorption filters absorb any unwanted wavelengths while the interference filter will use the effects of constructive and destructive superposition to transmit only the selected wavelength.
An acronym of light detection and ranging, describing systems that use a light beam in place of conventional microwave beams for atmospheric monitoring, tracking and detection functions. Ladar, an acronym of laser detection and ranging, uses laser light for detection of speed, altitude, direction and range; it is often called laser radar.
optical filterslidarweather satelliteMaterionAlluxaMKS InstrumentsmetasurfacesNISTCalifornia Institute of TechnologyBaylor Universitydirect depositionFeatures

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