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Self-Healing Optical Elements


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Electronics, 

OBJECTIVE: Develop and deliver optical elements that will independently repair damage. The self-healing optics should be capable of returning to their originally manufactured performance after receiving either physical or laser damage. The repair mechanism should be initiated by the damage and require no human triggering and be completed within seconds. 

DESCRIPTION: U.S. Army sensor systems consist of the most advanced technology available and are routinely subjected to extreme environments including heat, cold, sand/dust, high winds, and intense lasers which can result in their damage. It is a burden upon the Army in terms of materiel and labor to replace these elements but an even greater threat is the tactical disadvantage of a system becoming inoperable during maneuvers. The Army desires a method of creating self-healing optics that can be applied to its sensor systems. The self-healing mechanism can be implemented in either of two ways: as a coating that can be applied to existing optics or as the development of a new material suitable in high-performance optical elements including mirrors and lenses. Self-healing coatings or materials should be designed to be as broadband as possible, including as much of the 0.2-20 µm spectrum as possible. The self-healing capability should repair damage up to 0.5 mm deep from the elements surface within 2 seconds. Self-healing elements should be able to span sizes from 12-155 mm in diameter. The functional lifetime of an element should exceed 5 years or 10,000 damage repairs before a 2% degradation in performance. The high rate production should not significantly increase the cost of optical elements and total cost of an element should be below $1 per mm2. Unrequired features of interest include compatibility with anti-reflective nanostructured array coatings, greater than 95% reflective mirrors in the 3-10µm band, and mirrors with tunable laser damage thresholds. Successful self-healing strategies will be supported and implement through the appropriate Army Cross-Functional Teams and Program Offices. This technology would be particularly useful for the NGCV and FVL CFTs due to the stressing environments that exposed optics encounter as these vehicles traverse dust, smoke, dirt, fog, soot, rain, etc. 

PHASE I: The proposer shall complete a conceptual design of a self-healing system for effectiveness against physical and laser damage and demonstrate experimental proof of principle. 

PHASE II: Using the results of Phase I, fabricate and deliver a fully functioning prototype meeting the performance metrics. The prototype should meet all the requirements for TRL 5: “basic technological components are integrated with reasonably realistic supporting elements so it can be tested in a simulated environment,” and be on the way to meeting TRL 6: “prototype system, which is well beyond that of TRL 5, is tested in a relevant environment.” At the end of Phase II, the selection and demonstrated implantation of this technology into an Army system is desired. 

PHASE III: Transition applicable techniques and processes to a production environment with the support of an industry partner if needed. Finalize a methodology production for elements with appropriate performance metrics. Determine the best integration path as a capability upgrade to existing or future systems. Commercially, this technology will be widely applied in devices such as cell phone screens, eyeglasses, sporting optics, and automotive glass. 


1: Smimov, E. et al. "Self-healing gold mirrors and filters at liquid–liquid interfaces" Nanoscale 2016. 8, 7723 DOI:10.1039/C6NR00371K

KEYWORDS: Self-Healing, Optics, Laser Damage 

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