UA selected for Defense Department photonics project

Energy | 9 Aug, 2017 |

The American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (AIM Photonics), a public-private partnership advancing the nation’s photonics manufacturing capabilities, has announced the University of Arizona as the winner of a proposal call for a new Defense Department Government Directed Project for photonic integrated circuit, or PIC, data links for cryogenic focal plane arrays, or FPAs.

The $1.2 million Department of Defense project, along with an additional $400,000 in matching funds from a team led by the University of Arizona, will support a consortium that includes Sandia National Labs, Raytheon and other aerospace firms engaged in FPA technology. 

The project will encompass the design, fabrication and test of cryogenic PIC-based datalinks for FPA readout and has the potential to strongly advance imaging capabilities for national defense applications. Capitalizing on the national reach and capabilities of this unique consortium, the PICs at the heart of the project will be manufactured in the AIM Photonics silicon photonics fabrication facility at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany, New York, and also could lead to fabrication opportunities at AIM Photonics’ Test, Assembly and Packaging facility, which is being built in Rochester, New York. 

“When you consider the rapid pace of growth in both the FPA size and the required data rates, conventional electronic readouts become limited because they are both a heat source and a communication bottleneck,” said Robert Norwood, a UA professor of optical sciences and principal investigator for the program.

The UA’s extensive experience in cryogenic FPAs and integrated photonics, working in concert with major contractors of the defense industrial base, will target a design and development methodology that provides a common PIC datalink solution across multiple system needs and environments.  

“We are proud to partner with the Department of Defense, the University of Arizona and our industrial members in the development of this critical technology,” said Michael Liehr, CEO of AIM Photonics. “The design and development infrastructure we have developed is state of the art — and a key benefit for the team as they create this next integrated photonics technology.”

Frank Jaworski, program manager for emerging technology at Raytheon Vision Systems, added: “Raytheon regards the integration of photonic integrated circuits with focal plane arrays as a critical path for the development of future Department of Defense imaging systems vital to the nation’s security. We look forward to the University of Arizona’s leadership of the consortium and utilizing their expertise in developing this key technology.” 

Neil Supola, chief of the infrared focal plane array branch at the Army’s Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate and government program manager for AIM Photonics, said: “This program is a great opportunity for the Department of Defense to leverage advances in integrated photonics manufacturing being realized by the Manufacturing USA program together with its state, industrial and academic partners. The scope of industrial participation on this project highlights the relevance photonic integration has within the Department of Defense community, and this project’s inherent potential to make a large impact.”

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