SAIC to create manufacturable gradient index optics lenses for size- and weight-constrained military electro-optics applications

ARLINGTON, Va., 17 June 2010. Optical researchers at Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) in McLean, Va., are attempting to create manufacturable gradient index (GRIN) optical lenses for size- and weight-constrained military electro-optics applications.

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ARLINGTON, Va., 17 June 2010. Optical researchers at Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) in McLean, Va., are attempting to create manufacturable gradient index (GRIN) optical lenses for size- and weight-constrained military electro-optics applications.

SAIC is doing the research work under terms of a $9.5 million contract awarded Tuesday by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., for the Manufacturable Gradient Index Optics (M-GRIN) program.

The performance of traditional lenses in military systems often is limited by their optical elements, which dominate system weight and cost, and force tradeoffs between focal length, field of view, resolution, and range.

In traditional optics, light rays undergo refraction at the surfaces of each element, but travel in straight lines within the lens. Correcting for aberrations leads to large, heavy, complex designs, or greater losses, lower image quality, and manufacturing difficulties.

GRIN technology, however, has the potential to reduce size, weight, element count, and assembly cost of sophisticated optics, DARPA officials say. Control of the internal refraction in GRIN optics steers light in curved trajectories through the lens, varying the index of refraction and increasing the design space to include the entire volume of its optical elements.

DARPA is asking SAIC optical experts to advance GRIN design and fabrication technology from proof-of-concept to low rate initial production. SAIC will develop new lens design methods and tools that will lead to a scalable manufacturing system able to produce lenses in numbers from one to thousands.

SAIC optical experts will come up with ways to manufacturer GRIN optical assemblies for a high-performance color camera lens and a two-color solar concentrator, with emphases on materials development, optical element design, test and evaluation methods, and manufacturing.

For more information contact SAIC online at www.saic.com, or DARPA at www.darpa.mil.

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