Inexpensive infrared camera thermal imager based on wafer-fabbed cell phone camera technology sought by DARPA

ARLINGTON, Va., 28 Jan. 2011. Military electro-optics scientists at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., are reaching out to industry to find ways to develop low-cost room-temperature infrared (IR) cameras based on cell phone CMOS camera technology in which the imaging sensor, optics, and electronics are fabricated at the wafer level.

The DARPA Microsystems Technology Office issued a broad agency announcement (DARPA-BAA-11-27) this week for the Low Cost Thermal Imager Manufacturing (LCTI-M) program to provide each warfighter with inexpensive infrared cameras to detect threats and increase visibility in all weather conditions. The program objective is to develop wafer-level processes for chip-scale thermal imager manufacturing. The vision is to include longwave infrared cameras in cell phones or soldier-portable handheld devices with network capability.

The program aims for inexpensive, small, lightweight, and low-power-consumption, room-temperature thermal cameras with state-of-the-art performance that will enable widespread use and distribution of infrared cameras in military systems for each warfighter. The focus is on novel manufacturing methodologies that will reduce the cost and form-factor of IR cameras significantly using proven microbolometer technology.

The LCTI-M program addresses a key shortfall in current intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) systems: the lack of a thermal imaging capability available for each warfighter and the lack of IR cameras small enough for handheld devices like PDAs and cell phones.

The LCTI-M program seeks to develop small, affordable IR camera-manufacturing technology that is responsive in the 8-to-12 micron spectral band.

First, DARPA wants companies to develop wafer-scale integrated thermal imager manufacturing capability to produce very low cost and high throughput thermal camera components for clip-on thermal imagers on combat vehicles, thermal weapon sights, etc. Second, DARPA wants contractors to demonstrate a compact fully integrated thermal camera interfaced to a small handheld platform like a cell phone.

DARPA officials say they expect to award several contracts for this program. Companies interested should respond to DARPA no later than 9 March 2011. Send proposals to DARPA's Nibir Dhar by e-mail at DARPA-BAA-11-27@darpa.mil, by fax at 703-465-1064, or by post at DARPA-BAA-11-27, 3701 North Fairfax Dr., Arlington, VA 22203-1714.

More information is online at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/DARPA-BAA-11-27/listing.html.

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