IR supercontinuum laser

Ann Arbor, MI--Protecting helicopters in combat from heat-seeking missiles is the goal of new supercontinuum laser technology created at the University of Michigan and Omni Sciences, Inc.

Sep 3rd, 2010

Ann Arbor, MI--Protecting helicopters in combat from heat-seeking missiles is the goal of new supercontinuum laser technology created at the University of Michigan and Omni Sciences, Inc., which is a spinoff company of the university.

"Battlefield terrain in places like Afghanistan and Iraq can be so rough that our troops have often had to rely on helicopters, and they can be easy targets for enemies with shoulder-launched missiles," said Mohammed Islam, a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. "Our lasers give off a signal that's like throwing sand in the eyes of the missile."

Off-the-shelf components
Using inexpensive, off-the-shelf telecommunications fiber optics, Islam is developing sturdy and portable mid-IR supercontinuum lasers that could blind heat-seeking weapons from a distance of 1.8 miles away.

The technology is being commercialized through Islam's company, Omni Sciences, which has recently received $1 million in grants from the Army and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to build a second-generation prototype. The Army grant is for $730,000 and the DARPA funding is $300,000.

The lasers are promising for helicopter protection because their robust, simple design can withstand shaky helicopter flight and their mid-IR supercontinuum mode can effectively jam missile sensors.

Mimicking helicopter-engine heat
Islam's device is the first supercontinuum laser to operate at longer IR wavelengths that humans can feel as heat. Heat-seeking missiles are designed to home in on the IR radiation that the helicopter engine emits. The laser's broad spectrum effectively mimics the engine's electromagnetic signature and confuses any incoming weapons.

This new light source has many military applications, Islam says, but it is especially well-suited for helicopters.

"The laser-based IR countermeasures in use now for some aircraft have 84 pieces of moving optics. They couldn't withstand the shake, rattle, and roll of helicopters," Islam said. "We've used good, old-fashioned stuff from your telephone network to build a laser that has no moving parts."

Omni Sciences, Inc. has licensed Islam's technology from the University of Michigan. Islam has a financial interest in this company. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Naval Air Command have also funded this research.

For more info, see http://www.eecs.umich.edu/OSL/Islam/

Posted by John Wallace

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