N231-027 TITLE: Low-cost, Low-SWaP, and High-Performance Uncooled Infrared Imager
OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): General Warfighting Requirements (GWR)
The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.
OBJECTIVE: Develop low-cost, high-performance, uncooled infrared (IR) focal plane array (FPA) sensors using innovative novel materials; based on photon detection combined with silicon readout integrated circuits (ROICs), in the mid-wave IR (MWIR) and/or long-wave (LWIR), spectral bands.
DESCRIPTION: IR imaging technologies play a critical role in a variety of military applications including night vision, forward-looking IR cameras, and missile tracking. In these applications, size, weight, and power (SWaP) are often constrained, especially in aerial platforms such as small and mini UAVs, and in man-wearable configurations for situation awareness. These applications would greatly benefit from low-cost, uncooled, low-SWaP, and high-performance IR detector technologies that are suitable for SWaP-constrained imaging missions. Currently, microbolometer technology provides uncooled IR thermal detection, but microbolometer performance is generally limited by low sensitivity, high noise, slow video speed, lack of spectral content, and incompatibility with complementary metal oxide semiconductors (CMOS). While CMOS-compatible microbolometer IR FPAs have been developed recently, the performance and overall SWaP and cost still need to be improved [Ref 1] for increasingly demanding naval applications with smaller platforms and lighter payload capacities. Current high-performance IR photon detection technologies�based on mercury cadmium telluride (MCT) [Ref 2] and strained-layer superlattice structures (SLS) [Ref 3]�offer high sensitivity, fast response, and high resolution; however, these photon detectors are costly in fabrication and need to operate at cryogenic temperatures, which requires expensive and bulky cooling systems that increase the cost and SWaP [Ref 4]. Moreover, die-to-die bonding of a compound semiconductor detection layer to a silicon readout integrated circuit (ROIC) sets a limit on overall FPA size, pixel size, and cost.
Therefore, there is a demand for migration to alternative technology for IR FPA sensors that can address the following two fundamental challenges: high-performance uncooled operation; and a simple, cost-effective integration at the wafer-scale with Si-based ROICs with significantly reduced SWaP, similar to or smaller than that of a commercially available compact video camera in visible spectral range, for more demanding naval tactical applications. In the past decade, with advances in materials science and nanofabrication, many relatively new materials and technologies have emerged and been explored for IR photodetectors [Ref 4]. These include colloidal quantum dots [Ref 5], 2D/1D materials (such as graphene [Ref 6], transition metal dichalcogenides [Ref 7], carbon nanotubes [Ref 8]), and heterostructures [Ref 9]. These recent investigations demonstrated great potential in developing high-performance IR FPA sensors. This SBIR topic aims to develop MWIR and/or LWIR IR FPAs using novel materials and designs that can operate at room temperature with the high performance and low SWaP requirements listed below.
The IR FPA sensor should achieve the following target performance specifications. The following specifications represent at least 4X improvement in D* and SWaP over conventional cooled IR imagers.
(a) specific detectivity of D* = 10^10 Jones [cm(vHz)/W] or more,
(b) pixel size: 15 �m or less,
(c) frame rate: 100 F/S or better,
(d) size and weight: 200 cm� or less, and 300 g or less, including lens and supporting electronics,
(e) power: 5 W or less.
The technology should definitely be compatible and suitable for fabricating large-format FPAs of at least 1024 x 1024 pixels, and have a path toward achieving IR color in MWIR and/or LWIR bands. Furthermore, CMOS compatibility will accelerate the increase in pixel count in future versions of the next-generation ultra-high-definition FPA.
PHASE I: Design, model, and simulate an innovative approach for an IR FPA sensor that can achieve the specifications listed above. Design, fabricate, and test in the laboratory at least one detector based on the proposed technology. Characterize the detector�s performance based on the specifications above. Design a detector array to be fabricated and tested in Phase II. Use modeling and simulation to estimate the performance of the detector array, including SWaP. Develop a test plan and test procedures for the array to be developed in Phase II. The Phase I effort will include prototype plans to be developed under Phase II.
PHASE II: Optimize the design of the detector array. Develop modifications that can improve performance. Fabricate prototype detector array and test it in the laboratory to demonstrate all of the performance specification targets listed in the Description. Detail a scalable fabrication process that provides a roadmap toward cost-effective production. Conduct a trade study analysis of the array to establish the case for scalability to larger arrays. Prepare a Phase III transition plan.
PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Test and finalize the technology and methodology based on the research and development results developed during Phase II. Fully develop and transition the High-Performance Uncooled Infrared Imager based on the final design for various naval imaging applications stated in the topic Description.
The commercial sector can also benefit from this low-cost and low-SWaP infrared imager with fast response time in the areas of environmental monitoring, and noninvasive health monitoring and sensing. Commercialize the imager based on the technology developed in this SBIR effort for law enforcement, marine navigation, commercial aviation enhanced vision, medical applications, and industrial manufacturing processing.
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7. Ciani, A. J., Pimpinella, R. E., Grein, C. H., & Guyot-Sionnest, P. (2016, May). Colloidal quantum dots for low-cost MWIR imaging. In Infrared Technology and Applications XLII (Vol. 9819, p. 981919). International Society for Optics and Photonics. https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2234734
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12. Rao, G., Wang, X., Wang, Y., Wangyang, P., Yan, C., Chu, J., Xue, L., Gong, C., Huang, J., Xiong, J., & Li, Y. (2019). Two-dimensional heterostructure promoted infrared photodetection devices. InfoMat, 1(3), 272-288. https://doi.org/10.1002/inf2.12018
13. Goossens, S., Navickaite, G., Monasterio, C., Gupta, S., Piqueras, J. J., Pérez, R., Burwell, G., Nikitskiy, I., Lasanta, T., Galán, T., Puma, E., Centeno, A., Pesquera, A., Zurutuza, A., Konstantatos, G., & Koppens, F. (2017). Broadband image sensor array based on graphene�CMOS integration. Nature Photonics, 11(6), 366-371. https://doi.org/10.1038/nphoton.2017.75
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KEYWORDS: Microbolometer; uncooled; infrared; focal plane array; read-out integrated circuit; carbon nanotubes
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