Mid-ultraviolet sensors sought by DARPA to help improve chemical and biological agent detectors

ARLINGTON, Va., 23 March 2010. Electro-optics scientists at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., are asking industry to develop efficient emitters of ultraviolet (UV) light at 200-to-300-nanometer wavelengths for deployable chemical/biological-agent detectors, portable water purification illuminators, and related applications.

Mar 23rd, 2010

Posted by John Keller

ARLINGTON, Va., 23 March 2010.Electro-optics scientists at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., are asking industry to develop efficient emitters of ultraviolet (UV) light at 200-to-300-nanometer wavelengths for deployable chemical/biological-agent detectors, portable water purification illuminators, and related applications.

DARPA issued a broad agency announcement (DARPA-BAA-10-45) Monday called Compact Mid-Ultraviolet Technology calling for research proposals in middle ultraviolet emitter technology to develop heteroepitaxy, waveguides, cavities, and contacts to enable efficient light emitting diodes (LEDs) and chip-scale semiconductor lasers operating at wavelengths shorter than 275 nanometers.

These ultraviolet devices are expected to reduce the size, weight, and power consumption, while improving the capability, of chemical and biological detectors. DARPA officials say they expect to make several contract awards, and are allocating as much as $35 million for the project over 24 to 30 months.

The middle ultraviolet spectral region of 200 to 300 nanometers is of significant interest for U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) applications involving detection, identification, and decontamination of biological and chemical agents, DARPA officials explain.

Amino acids and many other common biological molecules are absorbing at these wavelengths, and the resulting near UV (300 to 400 nanometers) and visible fluorescence can signal their presence and aid in their identification in aerosol clouds, liquid suspensions, or powders.

Mature laser and detector technologies tuned to these wavelengths, however, are too heavy, fragile, and expensive for widespread military deployment at levels from platoons down to the individual warfighter.

Group III-nitride compounds and their alloys are promising for these applications because they offer the potential for electrically injected chip-scale mid-UV sources and detectors, DARPA officials say.

The program will pursue two tracks targeting high-power high-efficiency LEDs at 250 to 275 nanometers, and miniature UV lasers operating between 220 to 250 nanometers without nonlinear frequency conversion.

Companies interested in participating should send technology abstracts to DARPA no later than 20 April 2010, and full proposals no later than 15 June 2010. Send abstracts or questions to the DARPA program manager, John Albrecht, by e-mail at DARPA-BAA-10-45@darpa.mil, or by post care of DARPA/MTO, ATTN: DARPA-BAA-10-45, 3701 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22203-1714.

DARPA officials will conduct an industry day briefing on Friday 16 April 2010 at the Booz Allen Hamilton Building, 3811 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 600, in Arlington, Va., to discuss goals for the project. More information on the industry day is online at https://www.enstg.com/Signup/default.cfm?ThisCode=COM79309.

More information is online at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/DARPA-BAA-10-45/listing.html.

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