SBIR Phase II: Computational Low-cost Arrayed Infrared (CLAIR) Cameras
National Science Foundation
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Small Business Information
1600 Range Street, Suite 202, Boulder, CO, -
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
AbstractThis Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project will develop a revolutionary approach to the lens and opto-mechanical design and fabrication process for long wave infrared (LWIR) imagers with the goal of reducing cost, size, and weight. To date, the high cost of sensors has made LWIR imagers accessible only in markets where performance -not cost - is the driving factor, allowing expensive and bulky optics to reign. New process improvements are significantly reducing the size and cost of LWIR microbolometer sensors, making optics the limiting factor for weight, size, and cost reduction. The research objectives are to extend the technology developed in Phase I and validate the final manufacturing and testing process for the optics and camera assembly to show that the final architecture can meet the market requirements for module volume, weight and price when scaled to high volume production. The development will scale the process to larger arrays and will take the necessary steps to evaluate the solutions mechanical reliability. The solution will be implemented and tested through arrangements with industry partners. The anticipated result is a demonstration of an LWIR camera that meets the needs of the infrared (IR) vision enhancement and thermography markets. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is to extend the sale of IR imagers into cost-sensitive commercial applications. Currently IR imagers are targeted for expensive military applications, but there is a large need for reduced cost systems in safety, security, and industrial markets where thermal imaging offers enhanced viewing over the visible spectrum. Thermal imagers provide visibility in complete darkness, which enables imaging in adverse conditions needed by automotive collision detection, search and rescue and security applications that require identification of humans in conditions of no light. In industrial use, LWIR thermography can improve energy efficiency by identifying thermal leaks and can predict imminent process faults. The impact to society is as ubiquitous as the commercial opportunities and constitutes an increase in emergency search effectiveness, city street safety, and energy conservation. The scientific and technological understanding cannot be understated: technological innovation occurs most rapidly near manufacturing capability. Already, labor costs are driving current labor-intensive IR lens fabrication overseas. The proposed innovations remove the labor-intensive component, bolstering the US as the dominant manufacturer in this emerging market while enhancing science in parallel process development, material property innovation, and IR sensor performance.
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