DOD SBIR 24.4 Annual

Active
Yes
Status
Open
Release Date
October 3rd, 2023
Open Date
October 3rd, 2023
Due Date(s)
March 31st, 2025
Close Date
March 31st, 2025
Topic No.
A244-024

Topic

Lightweight Longwave Bolometer Sensor Components

Agency

Department of DefenseN/A

Program

Type: SBIRPhase: BOTHYear: 2024

Summary

The Department of Defense (DOD) is seeking proposals for the topic "Lightweight Longwave Bolometer Sensor Components" as part of the SBIR program. The objective of this topic is to develop components that enable low size, weight, and power (SWAP) thermal bolometer-type longwave thermal sensor payloads. These components should have equal or better performance than current commercial offerings while driving down SWAP. The components of interest include lens, focal plane, and readout and processing embedded hardware. The components should be ready for integration into a camera module by the end of Phase II. Thermal longwave infrared (LWIR) capabilities are crucial for many Army applications, especially for small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). However, the size, power, and weight constraints often limit the performance of these sensors. This topic aims to develop components that reduce the weight of thermal payloads while increasing their capabilities and keeping unit costs low. The project will have a Phase I and Phase II, with Phase I proposals accepting a cost of up to $250,000 for a 6-month period of performance. During Phase I, firms should design a proposed component with stakeholder input, analyze the SWAP-C impact of the component, and discuss how it will support the objective sensor payload. Phase II will involve completing the component design, fabricating, testing, and characterizing the component for integration into a lightweight sensor payload. Firms will also refine the design, define relevant interfaces, and lay out a high-level plan for integration. The potential applications of this research include smartphone camera augmentation, UAV camera augmentation, home security systems, and climate tech development. The project references academic research on bolometer manufacturing methods and the efficacy of leveraging colloidal quantum dots (QDs) for IR light sensing. Military contractors have also contributed to the research in the LWIR sensor and bolometer manufacturing spaces. For more information and to submit proposals, visit the DOD SBIR 24.4 Annual solicitation notice on grants.gov or the DOD SBIR/STTR Opportunities page. The open date for proposals is October 3, 2023, and the close date is March 31, 2025.

Description

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

 

OBJECTIVE: This topic will develop components to enable low size, weight, and power (SWAP) thermal bolometer-type longwave thermal sensor payloads. Components must enable performance equal to or better than current commercial offerings while driving down SWAP. Components of interest are any involved in the making of a complete camera module, e.g. lens, focal plane, and readout and processing embedded hardware. Components must be ready for integration into a camera module at the end of phase II.

 

DESCRIPTION: Thermal longwave infrared (LWIR) capabilities are crucial to many Army applications.  Size, power, and especially weight is of paramount importance for small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). Limited as they are by these payload constraints, such sensors often underperform and are not able to take advantage of higher performance embedded hardware necessary for autonomy or other missions.  This topic seeks to develop components enabling thermal payload weight reduction while increasing its capabilities and keeping unit costs low. Phase I and Phase II will demonstrate components, while Phase II sequential will take all best-of-breed components and demonstrate them in a single very lightweight module, 5–10 g including lens. All components should support high resolution sensors running at 30 Hz or faster.

 

PHASE I: This topic is only accepting Phase I proposals for a cost up to $250,000 for a 6-month period of performance.

 

Firms shall design a proposed component with stakeholder input. The design need not be ready to fabricate, but it should demonstrate a thorough understanding and seek to drive down risk and open questions for a potential phase II as much as possible. Discuss how the component will support the objective sensor payload and how to transition the completed component into that payload. Analyze the SWAP-C impact of the component on a hypothetical sensor payload.

 

PHASE II: During Phase II, Firms should: (1) complete the component design, (2) fabricate, test, and characterize the component to show that it is ready for integration into a lightweight sensor payload, (3) refine the design as necessary and iteratively re-fabrication and re-test if appropriate, (4) define and document relevant interfaces to enable integration, (5) lay out a high-level plan for how your component could be integrated into a lightweight payload and explore possible partners to enable the transition plan if needed.

 

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: 

Leveraging bolometer manufacturing methods for low-cost long wave infrared (LWIR) sensors has proven efficacious via academic research.  

	
		Additionally, research at the University of Chicago has shown the efficacy of leveraging colloidal quantum dots (QDs) as a cheap way to make IR light sensing, however, it’s still quite nascent and academic in nature. Per PitchBook, China and Japan lead QD sensing development.  
	

Military contractors, like BAE Systems and L3Harris, have driven some of the R&D within the LWIR sensor and bolometer manufacturing spaces.   
Potential dual uses of remote LWIR sensing include: 
	
		Smartphone camera augmentation, cheaply  
		UAV camera augmentation, specifically via the Office of Naval Research 
		Home security systems 
		Climate tech via QD development
	

 

REFERENCES:  

https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2666249
https://patents.google.com/patent/US20140267756A1/en
https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1674-1056/ac4026

 

KEYWORDS: UAS; Thermal Longwave Infrared; LWIR; sensors; bolometer; weight; payload; focal plane

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