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US AIM project to develop transparent waveguide across MW- and LWIR range

26 Jun 2018

UCSB-led team to develop a CMOS-compatible platform for integrating broad infrared lasers for AIM Photonics defense project

The American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (“AIM Photonics”), a public-private partnership based in New York designed to advance US photonics capabilities, has announced the awarding of the latest Defense Department Government Directed Project for photonic integrated circuits; Integrating MWIR and LWIR Sources.

The $1.7 million US Department of Defense project will support a consortium of AIM Photonics members led by University of California Santa Barbara, which includes Northrop Grumman, US Naval Research Laboratory, and SUNY Polytechnic Institute, New York.

AIM noted that the majority of related developments to date have “so far focused on a relatively narrow wavelength range — around 1550 nm”. The goal of this new US Government-directed project is to address the opportunities that include longer wavelengths.

UCSB will take the lead as the prime interface for this public-private partnership, which incorporates mid-wave infrared laser sources (3.0 μm to 5.0 μm) and long-wave infrared laser sources (nominally 8.0 μm to 14.0 μm) into the capability offerings of AIM Photonics.

Detecting trace gases

The expanded wavelength range will enable a variety of commercial and military applications, such as allowing sensors to be tuned to detect atmospheric trace gases for air quality evaluation or hazard alerts.

“AIM Photonics continues to expand the PIC ecosystem with our PDK, MPW, and soon to be available TAP services,” said Dr. John Bowers, Deputy CEO of AIM Photonics. “The additional laser research is another example of the exceptional value this institute continues to provide through these research and development partnerships.”

UCSB’s experience in laser research and integrated photonics, in collaboration with DoD experts and key defense contractors, will target inclusion of these laser sources into the AIM Photonics PDK, MPW, and TAP capabilities, allowing for a wider range of capabilities for the larger integrated photonics community.

“We are proud to partner with the DoD, the University of California Santa Barbara, and our industrial members in the development of this critical technology,” said Dr. Michael Liehr, CEO of AIM Photonics. “The expansion into longer wavelengths is necessary to ensure our design and development infrastructure we have developed is state of the art, and continues to address the additional requirements and key benefits of our integrated photonics manufacturing ecosystem.”

’Critical development for national security’

Dr. Loan Le, Staff Research Scientist at Northrop Grumman, added, "Northrop Grumman regards the inclusion of MWIR and LWIR into AIM Photonics photonic integrated circuits as a critical part of the development of future DoD imaging systems vital to the nation’s security. We look forward to working with UCSB’s and DoD’s technical leadership in developing this key technology."

“The extension of photonic integrated circuits to MWIR and LWIR wavelengths may be expected to strongly impact Navy systems,” said Dr. Jerry Meyer, Senior Scientist for Quantum Electronics at the US Naval Research Laboratory. “They will be particularly valuable in systems requiring such advanced capabilities as IR power scaling, multi-spectral beam combining, high-resolution IR imaging, and chemical threat detection.”

Dr. Thomas Nelson, Advanced Development Team Lead at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, commented, “We are excited to help extend the portfolio of AIM manufacturing to support MWIR and LWIR integrated photonics. Aside from Department of Defense interests, there are numerous medical, bioenvironmental, remote sensing, communications, and manufacturing and process monitoring benefits that we hope will be affordably and reliably demonstrated through the outcomes of this work.”

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