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HRL Receives National Intelligence Award

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R&D laboratory HRL Laboratories LLC has received an award from the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to develop SWIR and MWIR image sensors.

The research will build on breakthrough curved visible-light image sensor technology developed at HRL. Curved image sensors have significant advantages over flat sensors in that they increase performance and reduce cost, weight and volume of optics for many types of cameras. Curved sensor technology is poised to improve many optic-related scientific fields including photography, videography, computer vision and automation, reconnaissance and surveillance imaging, microscopy and telescopy, among others.

"Infrared sensors and their optics have different challenges than visible light imagers," said Geoff McKnight, HRL's principal investigator on the project. "One of which is that they often must be operated at very low temperatures, which introduces thermal stresses from the contraction of the sensors. After curving the sensors, we will have to cool them to cryogenic temperature for operation, and the combination of the thermal stresses and bending stresses may potentially degrade or fracture the detectors."

The goal of the 12-month program is to develop fundamental technology and gain a better understanding of the effects of the bending process on the performance of III-V semiconductor SWIR and MWIR image sensors. The program will also examine the benefits of curved sensors for IR lens design. Because traditional glasses do not transmit at some IR frequencies, different lens materials must be used. These substitute materials are much more expensive and often less durable than glass. When building a traditional visible-light camera, there is a large catalog of glass types available and they can be mixed and matched to optimize optical performance. In IR lenses, the lens material catalog is very limited, making lens design challenging.

"Because the toolkit is limited in the thermal imaging space, curved sensors may be even more value in that space than in the visible light space," McKnight said.

HRL Laboratories is a corporate R&D laboratory owned by the Boeing Co. and General Motors.

Photonics Spectra
Feb 2018
BusinessHRL LaboratoriesIntelligence Advanced Research Projects ActivityIARPAnational intelligenceimagingsensing and detectionsAmericasSensors & Detectorslight speed

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