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Watch out for the Imaging Revolution in the Military

Cameras for use in all environments and lighting conditions exhibited at SPIE conference
The SPIE Defense, Security and Sensing symposium is one of the leading conferences for showcasing optoelectronic and electronic equipment used in the military sector.  Based in Orlando, Florida between April 5 and 9th 2010, the latest technologies and applications in infrared, sensors, image analysis and devices were presented.

Spire Semiconductor uses its MOCVD growth facility to produce 50mm to 100mm GaAs and InP based epitaxial wafers and works with its customers to design and fabricate VCSELs, LEDs, photodetectors and modulators.  General Manager of Spire Semiconductor, Mr. Edward Gagnon was at the show where high-efficiency GaAs solar cells, were exhibited.

French company Sofradir demonstrated their Scorpio Focal Planar Array (FPA) which utilises a 15 m pitch longwavelength IR detector (LWIR) featuring video imaging. The smaller the pixel pitch, the greater the detectors spatial resolution. A  combination of small pitch and longwavelength makes new system architectures available  to defense and security equipment makers.

Problems with blooming (where one pixel has too much illumination which overflows into a neighboring pixel) have already been successfully tackled by Sofradir in the mid-wavelength range and they have now improvised the mature technology to eliminate the problem in the long wavelength region.

Furthermore, the operating temperature of 100K is greater than the industry standard of 80K resulting in an enhanced cooler reliability and longer autonomy for battery operated equipment.

Sensors Unlimited unveiled their new InGaAs based SU320HX shortwavelength IR (SWIR)video camera designed for use in haze, fog, smoke, and dust and throughout all hours of the day and night. Again, it is suited to military surveillance applications as well as marine intelligence tasks and is backward compatible with its predecessor the KT.

The camera is claimed to be lighter, smaller and more energy efficient than its cooled mid-wave, long-wave IR and germanium-based IR competitors.

Recently, Sensors Unlimited s cameras were used on NASA s LCROSS mission to detect moisture on the moon.

Rice Camera Technologies, who have recently entered into partnership with SVS-Vistek, specializes in short and long wavelength IR thermal cameras. These are mainly used in robotics equipment and automated inspection systems.

They exhibited their latest product, the NIR600 NIR-SWIR VDS camera which features an InGaAs sensor which has a spectral response from 900nm to 1700nm. With a resolution of 320 x 256 it offers speeds of up to 100fps and sensitivity beyond 1 micron. The scientific grade camera with NIR Perfection can be used in multiple applications including machine vision and military imaging.

Belgian firm Xenics, who design and manufacture IR detectors and cameras from 400 to 14000nm in both linescan and 2-D mode presented its latest product the Onca-MWIR-InSb.

With real-time image correction this camera uses a 2-D InSb array with 320 x 256 or 640 x 512 pixel resolution. Like the Rice NIR600, it has a 14-bit image and offers both a standard and high speed video rate. The Onca-MWIR-InSb is optimized for highly stable stand alone and PC-driven thermal imaging and thermography applications.

Papers presented at the conference include a collaboration between Magnolia Optical Technologies and Kopin demonstrating that using InGaAs quantum wells of varying thickness and composition can provide high efficiency solar cells. They also presented a paper based on InN- based quantum dot solar cells. Advantages of nitride semiconductors in solar cells over other materials are the large range of energy gaps, superior radiation resistance, and tolerance to high temperatures.

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