Radiation Tolerant Fiber Optic Communication

Navy SBIR 23.2 - Topic N232-115
SSP - Strategic Systems Programs
Pre-release 4/19/23   Opens to accept proposals 5/17/23   Closes 6/14/23 12:00pm ET

N232-115 TITLE: Radiation Tolerant Fiber Optic Communication

OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Microelectronics;Nuclear

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: Investigate and demonstrate radiation tolerant transmission and receiving for single-phase fiber optics.

DESCRIPTION: The radiation effects and subsequent mitigation strategies for both traditional Integrated Circuits and Fiber Optics can be well understood and protected against an individual component level [Ref 1]. When scaling outward to a System level that integrates both, greater considerations must be taken to ensure general system survivability against radiation. The effects particularly can manifest themselves at the interfaces that combine both types of components in a potentially sensitive system.

There are several existing products and methods that may meet the requirements of a radiation tolerant transmission and receiving of optical signals [Ref 2], however, it is yet unknown if these types of devices used for civilian applications can fully meet strategic program needs. A comprehensive study and development effort is required to understand the feasibility of using fiber optics for communication within missile sub-systems. The cable system (i.e., transmitter, fiber, and receiver) will need to withstand radiation environments analogous to natural space, as well as man-made hostile conditions for a prompt high dose rate range of 1E11 to 1E13 rad(Si)/s, a Total Ionizing Dose range of 1E5 to 5E5 rad(Si), Neutron Displacement Damage maximum of 5E12 to 1E14 n/cm2, and X ray fluence range of 0.1 to 10 cal/cm2. Additional success criteria will be an improvement (i.e., reduction) of size, weight, and power (SWaP) as compared to traditional copper. In addition to a possible reduction in SWaP characteristics, the fiber cables themselves are inherently immune to EMI/EMP, whereas copper has to be shielded in order to reduce the effect to acceptable levels.

Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. owned and operated with no foreign influence as defined by DoD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented and approved by the Defense Counterintelligence Security Agency (DCSA). The selected contractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances, in order to perform on advanced phases of this project as set forth by DCSA and SSP in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M during the advanced phases of this contract.

PHASE I: Perform a feasibility study. All applicable environments will be considered and a plan developed detailing how each environment will be verified and, if necessary, mitigated. Feasibility will be evaluated in consideration of the aforementioned radiation environments as well as the increase/decrease in SWaP over common copper cables. Initial design specifications and capabilities description to build test articles will be developed or procured. The Phase I Option, if exercised, will entail prototype or procurement of the test articles, as well as further definition of the tests to be conducted in Phase II. These task suggestions are notional, and all qualifying and reasonable proposals will be considered.

PHASE II: Subject the test articles to the applicable environments. If certain tests are cost prohibitive, simulations may be developed and/or utilized to show compliance to requirements, however, a physical test is the preferred method of verification. Simulation methodology and data will be independently verified by the same standard as physical testing. Additional testing and/or analysis may be needed to verify reliability, robustness, etc. Commercialization strategy will be further refined.

It is probable that the work under this effort will be classified under Phase II (see Description section for details).

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Transition the technology to be used for the Trident D5 Life Extension II program. This technology will then be evaluated against the Defense Logistics Agency’s Qualified Manufacturing Listing which will properly verify the different aspects of the technology, from its development and manufacturing to its field use, meeting strategic requirements. The aspects of the technology that don’t meet standards may be adjusted and re-qualified. Once fully vetted and qualified, the technology may be purchased and integrated into the parts library of the program to be further tested and designed. At this stage it is expected that the company will have defined cost and manufacturing requirements and define the Intellectual Property needs, as well as meet with Naval financial experts to define a reasonable price for fielding the technology. In the commercial sector, this technology would apply towards producing high fidelity systems for space applications. These could include the advanced satellite systems as well as autonomous delivery systems that would require high speed, radiation tolerant system level data transfer.


  1. Johnston, A. H. "Radiation Damage of Electronic and Optoelectronic Devices in Space." 4th International Workshop on Radiation Effects on Semiconductor Devices for Space Application, October 2000. https://nepp.nasa.gov/DocUploads/D41D389D-04D4-4710-BBCFF24F4529B3B3/Dmg_Space-00.pdf
  2. Paschotta Rudiger. "Radiation-Resistant Fibers." RP-Photonics Encyclopedia. https://www.rp-photonics.com/radiation_resistant_fibers.html

KEYWORDS: Fiber Optics; Radiation Effects; Optics; Single-Phase Fiber; Reliability; Optoelectronics; Space


The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the Navy Topics in the DoD 23.2 SBIR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at www.defensesbirsttr.mil/SBIR-STTR/Opportunities/#announcements for any updates.

The DoD issued its Navy 23.2 SBIR Topics pre-release on April 19, 2023 which opens to receive proposals on May 17, 2023, and closes June 14, 2023 (12:00pm ET).

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