Nearly all military-fielded imaging systems contain detector arrays fabricated using planar processes developed for electronic integrated circuits, resulting in the need to use large and complex optics to properly bring imaged objects into focus. Recent industry-led advancements have resulted in modestly curved, small-area, visible-light image sensors. The Focal arrays for Curved Infrared Imagers (FOCII) program plans to build upon the visible sensor advancements from industry by extending this capability towards large format cryogenically cooled infrared imagers with extreme curvatures to vastly improve performance while reducing weight, volume, and cost of optics.
While curved imagers have been attempted by the community in the past, the approaches used were not able to produce commercially scalable, large format devices with small radius of curvatures. Several organizations developed techniques to curve small (<20 mm diagonal) commercial arrays to a radius of curvature of 50-70 mm. However, these imagers operated at room temperature and primarily imaged only visible light. Though very small radius of curvatures are possible with imagers that use nontraditional flexible absorbing materials combined with flexible electronics, imaging performance was significantly worse in terms of sensitivity, noise, and resolution due to the inherently poorer electrical properties, immature processing, and low fill factor of flexible materials. Lastly, compound imagers arraying multiple micro-imaging systems into a curved imaging plane with a common objective lens have been demonstrated with high resolution and high sensitivity. However, these resulting systems are large, costly, and complex.
FOCII seeks to develop and demonstrate commercially scalable technologies for curving existing large format, high performance infrared focal plane arrays to a small radius of curvature to maximize performance as well as demonstrate curving of smaller format focal plane arrays to an extreme radius of curvature to enable the smallest form factors possible while maintaining exquisite performance.
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