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Self Contained/Self Powering Solutions for Protective Eyewear Employing Active Lens Technologies


OBJECTIVE: Develop self-powering solutions for protective eyewear (spectacles and/or goggles) that employ an active means of variable light transmission (i.e., an active means of achieving a clear and sunglass state in a single lens system) in support of Soldiers, Marines and other service members who require the use of active lens technologies. DESCRIPTION: Variable transmissive lenses are in the process of being developed to provide eye protection that can rapidly adapt to changing light conditions, such as those experienced while moving in and out of buildings. Solutions with the most rapid transition from clear to sunglass state, and vice-versa, are power driven. Passive based alternatives (i.e., photochromic lenses) transition too slowly in rapidly changing lighting conditions (such as moving in/out of buildings) and tend to rely on the presence of ultraviolet radiation in order to change from clear to sunglass states (reducing effectiveness when worn in vehicles). Power requirements present a challenge in the field, due to the need for replenishment. This SBIR effort serves to focus on developing small-scale self-contained power solutions suitable for spectacle and/or goggle formats, with the goal of a continual means to replenish the power needed for active lens technologies when a means of physically charging the eyewear by other means is not readily available. The unit should be self-contained within the eyewear platform such that no tethering to the powering unit is required. Designs may consider utilizing existing eyewear components, such as the lens itself, as a power generating component. The effort is intended to benefit Soldiers, Marines and other service members who require active eyewear to be worn in remote locations for extended periods of time. PHASE I: Phase I shall focus on designs for integrating self-powering technology capable of supporting the power requirements of a spectacle and/or goggle employing active (powered) variable transmission lens technology. Designs using currently approved US military protective eyewear as the platform for demonstration are preferred. Designs should consider the amount of power required by typical active lens systems, and ultimately be capable of supporting these systems on a continual basis in a military environment. This includes use on overcast days and other low-light level conditions. Consideration should also be given to other end item eyewear requirements, (reference GL-PD 10-12, Purchase Description for Military Combat Eye Protection) including, but not limited to: - function reliably in varying climatic conditions (such as hot, cold, rainy, dry, salt water, etc. environments) - meet military ballistic fragmentation impact, as well as ANSI Z87.1, requirements (optics, impact, etc.) - be compatible with military helmets Integration of the self-powering technology shall balance weight and not adversely impact ability to retain the eyewear on the head (such as may result from a front-heavy design). Designs shall be sufficiently durable to survive use in a military environment, and not introduce features that may snag in the field. Cost and manufacturability shall also be considered up-front. During Phase I, current electrochromic and liquid crystal variable transmissive protective eyewear devices in development and production will be surveyed and power requirements identified. A variable transmissive eyewear system will be chosen to work with, and a corresponding self-powering device subsequently designed to support the power requirements of that system on a continual basis without the need to recharge. Self-powering designs should target/leverage the existing real-estate of the eyewear product selected. The design shall be characterized/verified by means such as modeling, breadboard prototyping and testing. Characterization shall include, but not be limited to, the goals/metrics outlined below. Detailed monthly progress reports shall be provided, as well as a final report detailing the design, design trade-offs made, conceptual drawings, any schematics, and results of any modeling/prototyping/testing conducted. A summary of key characteristics, projected end-item cost range, and manufacturing considerations, shall also be included for the chosen design. Goals/Metrics are: General: The design shall provide a means of storing energy and providing continual replenishment of that energy as a load is applied and energy drained. The design shall also have the capability to be recharged by external means, if needed. The design shall be capable of preventing overcharge or deep-discharge, as applicable, for any rechargeable batteries used. The design shall consider safety in the event of ballistic fragmentation impact of the frame/electrical components during use in a military environment. Power: The design shall have the ability to power an electrochromic or liquid crystal based variable transmissive protective eyewear lens (shield style) during transitions between clear (luminous transmittance as high as 90%) and sunglass states (luminous transmittance as low as 12%), and sustain that given state (as applicable). Size of the variable transmissive protective eyewear lens being powered shall be at least 6"wide x 2"high at the widest dimensions (shield style). The Phase I design shall continuously replenish power and provide sufficient capacity in such a way that it increases operating time of the variable transmissive eyewear 3-fold as compared to a non-replenishing system of equivalent capacity. Ultimate goal is uninterrupted operation of the complete device for the life of the item. Sources of power generation: The design shall provide multiple means of power generation, such that replenishment can take place when wearing both day and night. If the lens is leveraged as a platform for power generation, the design shall maintain good optical quality of the lens (resolving power, refractive power/astigmatism, prismatic power, optical distortion), minimize haze (3% or less), and minimize effect on luminous transmittance(no visually notable difference). Speed: The design shall be capable of supplying sufficient power to enable the lens to change from its full clear to full dark state (and vice versa) in 3 seconds or less. Ultimate goal is less than 1 second. Weight: Target weight of initial working prototype (frame, electronics, and associated variable transmissive lens) is: 4 ounces or less (with an ultimate goal of 2.5 ounces or less) if a spectacle platform is chosen; and 7 ounces or less (with an ultimate goal of 5.5 ounces or less) if a goggle platform is chosen. Cost: Goal is an overall large scale production product cost (frame, electronics, and associated variable transmissive lens) of $125 or less (base year 2012, prior to inflation), with an ultimate goal of $75, or less. Cost and performance Trade-offs shall be considered during the effort to achieve overall best value. Partnering with an eyewear manufacturer and/or provider of variable transmissive protective eyewear products (in development or production) is highly encouraged. PHASE II: Refine design developed in Phase I (to include improvement with respect to the goals/metrics identified for Phase I) and deliver a working prototype of a functional system to the Government. The phase II prototype shall demonstrate self-powering of a variable transmission lens integrated into a ballistic fragmentation protective spectacle and/or goggle, preferably in a currently fielded military protective eyewear product. Variable transmissive technologies selected in support of this effort should be capable of meeting ANSI Z87.1 requirements. The prototype design shall be characterized, to include the goals/metrics outlined in Phase I. The system delivered to the government shall include all drive electronics and any associated cables required for initial charging of the system. The system shall be geared toward operation in multiple environmental conditions, and deliver a report documenting: (1) the design of the device and its integration method, to include detailed drawings and schematics; (2) the fabrication processes and associated materials/equipment; (3) the experimental procedures and results that demonstrate the effectiveness of the system for its intended purpose over prolonged periods of time under various conditions (to include low light levels) (5) updated summary of key characteristics, end item cost estimates, and manufacturing considerations, to include any special processes or equipment anticipated for production purposes and degree to which goals/metrics are met (6) produce ten prototype devices to demonstrate the innovative technology in a relevant environment. In addition, prototypes will be tested on a system level to ensure integration and operational performance. The success of performance evaluation and testing results, if favorable, will lead into Phase III applications. All research, development and prototype designs shall be documented with detailed descriptions and specifications of the materials, designs, processes, and performance PHASE III: Upon successful completion of the research and development in Phase I and Phase II, the Self Contained/Self Powering system shall be manufactured in conjunction with a corresponding Variable Transmissive protective eyewear. Prior to use in an operational environment, the complete system must, at a minimum, demonstrate compliance with ballistic fragmentation and ANSI Z87.1 requirements, and ability for prolonged use without the need to be recharged by an external source. In addition, this technology can be applied to civilian law enforcement and outdoor equipment with similar operational and recreational purposes. REFERENCES: (1) Core Soldier System Capabilities Production Document. Force Protection Attributes, Eye Protection. June 2007. (2) Office of Naval Research Fast Tint Protective Eyewear, ONR Program Code 03I, February 2011 (3) GL-PD 10-12, Purchase Description for Military Combat Eye Protection (MCEP) System, April 2010 (4) Phase II SBIR with Eclipse Energy Systems Inc.; Topic A08-132"Variable Optical Transmission Lens for Integrated Eyewear Protection"(5) Phase II SBIR with Kent Optronics, Inc.; Topic A08-132"Variable Optical Transmission Lens for Integrated Eyewear Protection"(6) Updated Authorized Protective Eyewear List (APEL) for Military Combat Eye Protection, dated January 30, 2012
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