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UK military seeking new photonics R&D ideas

30 Jan 2014

Government call for novel optical and IR sensing proposals for defense applications.

The UK Government’s Technology Strategy Board is next month launching a call for research proposals for photonics-based sensors for military applications. As yet, no financial details about level of investment are available

The purpose of this Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE)-themed call, which opens on 25 February, is driven by “the strategic need for future platforms to be multi-role and tactically flexible”. The UK’s Ministry Of Defence is interested in exploring a range of novel ideas for future electro-optic and infra-red sensors.

The MOD's Centre for Defence Enterprise says it is interested in “novel, high-risk, high-potential-benefit research sourced from the broadest possible range of science and technology providers, including academia and small companies, to enable development of cost-effective solutions for UK Armed Forces and national security.”

The R&D competition is seeking low technology readiness level concepts (TRL 2-3) within the area of future electro-optic infrared sensors and it is expected that a number of design studies and feasibility demonstrations will be funded, with the intention of pursuing a smaller number in the longer term.

Driven by the strategic need for future platforms to be multi-role and tactically flexible, the MOD said that key attributes of winning systems will be low size, weight and power, and low whole-life cost. Therefore compact technologies and multi-function components will be essential.

Special requests

The CDE suggests several possible approaches to achieve the strategic aims: compactness might be realized by the use of novel optical configurations. These could include new material concepts (including metamaterials, for example), the "radical" use of advanced electro-optics to achieve flat or conformal lenses or methods for making flat conformal windows that permit line-of-sight steering in place of conventional mirror-gimbal designs. Alternatively, true phased array technologies, optical synthetic aperture or direct holographic imaging may be explored.

Multi-functionality and compactness may be possible using novel detection approaches that permit simultaneous detection and discrimination from the ultra-violet to the deep infra-red wavelengths, or by devising focal plane arrays that can both emit and receive, acting as a passive imager as well as a lidar. Highly sensitive imagers that can achieve either single photon detection, or can act in a coherent detection mode for additional functionality could also be attractive.

This call will be launched at an event on Tuesday, 25 February 2014 in London. Registration for this event is now open. The MOD does not charge for attendance at CDE events. The call will close on Thursday, 8 May 2014. All proposals must be submitted via the CDE Portal.

About the Author

Matthew Peach is a contributing editor to optics.org.

Omicron-Laserage Laserprodukte GmbHSensofar MetrologyEdmund OpticsBRD Optical Co., LtdSpectrum Scientific Inc. -  SSI OpticsScitec Instruments LtdSchaefter und Kirchhoff GmbH
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