PORTLAND, Ore. A key U.S. military advantage has been its ability to fight at night. But current night-vision gear can't spot the enemy beyond 100 meters on moonlit nights.
Seeking to shed more light on the technology, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (Darpa) Microsystems Technology Office in investing in large infrared focal-plane arrays from Sensors Unlimited Inc. (Princeton, N.J.).
The low-noise, dual-wavelength (both day- and night-vision) detector measures 1,280-by-1,024 pixels. It could help Darpa achieve its goal of seeing the enemy at 100 meters under "no-moon" conditions, including cloudy nights. No-moon focal-plane arrays could be available within three years.
Separately, NVE Corp. ( Eden Prairie, Minn.) has received funding from the Office of Naval Research to continue development of it deep submicron vertical transport magnetoresistive RAM technology, which combines random access with nonvolatility.
Sensors Unlimited's main business is short-wave infrared cameras using its proprietary indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs) process, which can transduce photons into electricity at dual wavelengths both visible and shortwave infrared.'
Requiring no cooling, the InGaAs focal-plane array is billed as providing high-resolution, passive night vision imaging using pixels oriented on a 15 micron pitch. The pixels are sensitive to wavelengths from 0.4 to 1.7 microns.'
The company said it will take up to three years to complete the project. If it passes annual Darpa evaluations, the entire contract will be worth for more than $4.57 million.
Sensors Unlimited claims its array will have less than 10 electrons readout noise at video rates while enabling dark current densities of less than 2 nanoamps per cm2. That would make low read noise the only limiting factor to achieving video rates.
The company was founded in 1991. It was acquired by fiber-optic specialist Finisar Corp. in 2000, but regained its independence in late 2002 following a management buyback.