You are here

Low Cost SWIR Laser Sensor


OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Integrated Sensing and Cyber; Microelectronics

OBJECTIVE: Develop a Short-Wave Infrared (SWIR) detector capable of asynchronously locating short laser pulses for target marking with the potential of an order of magnitude lower cost than current sensors. Utilize new detector technology to lower manufacturing cost for SWIR sensors. A lower cost laser sensor would enable integration into platforms that support Soldier Lethality and Next Generation Combat Vehicles (NGCV).

DESCRIPTION: Short Wave InfraRed (SWIR) cameras with Asynchronous Laser Pulse Detection (ALPD) are an emerging technology. This has the potential to be used as a multi-function solution for various marking and detection tasks. The major barrier to the proliferation of current SWIR ALPD cameras is cost. At high price points, these SWIR ALPD cameras are unlikely to proliferate across the armed forces. A low-cost, next-generation laser detection sensor is needed. Current detectors use Indium Gallium Arsenide (InGaAs) focal plane arrays (FPA) that are meticulously bump bonded onto a Read Out Integrated Circuit (ROIC). This process requires both expensive materials and intensive labor, thus lowering yield and driving costs up. Previous efforts to lower the cost of this technology have proven unsuccessful. This SBIR effort aims to pair a low-cost detector material, such as quantum dots or other innovations, to a ROIC with laser detection capability. A novel approach to laser detection could have significant cost implications in production. This moderate-risk, high-payoff approach to a low-cost SWIR laser detector should produce a device that can detect laser pulses at operationally relevant ranges for marking tasks.

PHASE I: This is a Direct to Phase II (DP2) topic. A DP2 award is requested because of the demonstrations we have observed during lab and field evaluations of the candidate technology. The Colloidal Quantum Dots (CQD) material and process has been successfully applied to a standard ROIC and does have sensitivity in the SWIR spectrum to detect the laser spots. Awarding a phase II SBIR would allow for the development of the CQD process on a Read Out Integrated Circuit (ROIC) designed for laser pulse detection, as well as optimizing the quantum dot sensitivity at the laser wavelength. Much of the potential in this technology has been identified and we wish to expand its application to better fit our customers’ needs.

(DIRECT TO) PHASE II: Develop and demonstrate a 2D SWIR detector with asynchronous laser pulse detection. This device should use a detector material and process that has the potential to be significantly lower cost than existing solutions in production quantities. An imaging function is desired but not a requirement for this effort.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: This system could be used in a broad range of military applications where laser detection is necessary. Optimize system design for size, weight and power, to include ruggedization to survive in a military environment. Recent advances in methods for synthesis and surface functionalization of CQDs have driven the commercialization of display and lighting applications and provide promising developments in the related fields of lasing and IR sensors. Current market applications, including start-up usage, for quantum dot technology embedded into semiconductors include:

  • Multimedia technology provides more immersive and realistic experiences.
  • Smartphone sensing recognition and augmented facial ID recognition. 
  • Augment solar panels energy collection capabilities, which can be leveraged for renewable energy as well as agriculture production. 
  • Medical usage, namely bio-imaging and modeling of protein structures as well as infrared sensing.
  • Quantum computing research in the nascent and pivotal future sector. 

KEYWORDS: Sensors; Short Wave InfraRed (SWIR); Lasers; Detection; Cameras; Colloidal Quantum Dots (CQD); Low Cost; Read Out Integrated Circuit (ROIC)


  1. ST’s Quantum Dot Sensor set for volume Swir Imaging. ST’s quantum dot sensor set for volume SWIR imaging | Imaging and Machine Vision Europe. (2021, December 15).
  2. Palomaki, P., & Keuleyan, S. (2022a, November 22). Move over, CMOS: Here come snapshots by Quantum Dots. IEEE Spectrum.
  3. SWIR Vision Systems. (2022). SWIR Vision Systems Acuros® vs Sony® IMX990: A Closer Look at Key Metrics and Performance [White paper].
US Flag An Official Website of the United States Government