DoD awards University of Arkansas $7.5M to advance infrared detectors

The $7.5 million dollar award from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is part of its Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative, or MURI.

Military aircraft, missile tracking systems, and ground troops who rely on night-vision systems could benefit from a new generation of infrared imaging devices made with a powerful semiconducting material developed by University of Arkansas researchers and their colleagues at several institutions.
Military aircraft, missile tracking systems, and ground troops who rely on night-vision systems could benefit from a new generation of infrared imaging devices made with a powerful semiconducting material developed by University of Arkansas researchers and their colleagues at several institutions.
University of Arkansas

Shui-Qing “Fisher” Yu, associate professor of electrical engineering, and Gregory Salamo, distinguished professor of physics, have received a $7.5 million award from the U.S. Department of Defense, as part of its Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative, or MURI. Yu, as principal investigator, and Salamo, as co-principal investigator, will lead a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional team of researchers who will design, fabricate, and test infrared detectors made with silicon germanium tin.

“This is a significant award – the first MURI with the University of Arkansas as the lead institution,” said Dan Sui, vice chancellor for research and innovation. “Fisher has dedicated most of his career to an investigation of this powerful material and its potential as a promising new semiconductor. So, I’m happy for him, but I’m also extremely excited that this work is happening here, on our campus. It is yet another demonstration of this university’s contribution to improving systems that make our world better.”

Infrared (IR) imaging technologies are used by the military for night vision systems. They currently rely on semiconducting alloys such as mercury cadmium telluride and other material-based photodetectors. These have several limitations, including a complex and expensive manufacturing process, low production yield, and poor uniformity over large areas. These limitations have a negative impact on wide-range IR visibility, especially in areas with poor environmental conditions.

To address these limitations, the Department of Defense granted the MURI award to Yu, Salamo and a team of researchers from Arizona State University, Dartmouth College, University of Massachusetts – Boston and George Washington University. The researchers will investigate using silicon germanium tin alloys for lighter, faster, and more energy-efficient IR imaging devices with a higher signal-to-noise quality and lower cost.

As an alternative to silicon, the standard semiconductor for computer chips, germanium tin layered on silicon substrates has many advantages in semiconductor physics. In 2016, Yu and colleagues reported the fabrication of a first-generation, “optically pumped” laser, meaning the material was injected with light, similar to an injection of electrical current. Since then, the researchers have been refining the material, which could be used in the development of lightweight, compact, and low-power-consuming electronic components that use light for information transmission and sensing.

In 2018, Yu was awarded three Air Force grants totaling $1.5 million to develop optically pumped germanium tin lasers and to study how to use germanium tin as a platform for optical signal processing. Yu and Salamo said the impact of this research extends beyond military applications and could improve imaging systems used in healthcare, meteorology and climatology, surveillance, and autonomous systems such as self-driving vehicles.

The Defense Department’s MURI program started in 1985 and is jointly sponsored by the Army Research Office, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Office of Naval Research. It is an annual competition designed to address the Defense Department’s complex challenges that do not lie within a single discipline. MURI awards are highly competitive and prestigious. This is the first time the University of Arkansas is the leading institution on a MURI award.

SOURCE: University of Arkansas; https://researchfrontiers.uark.edu/research-funded-by-dod-to-improve-infrared-detectors-used-for-night-vision/

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