Study of Membrane Optics for Lightweight Space Telescopes

Astudy has been performed to establish a foundation for the analysis, design, and further development of inplane- actuated deformable membrane mirrors for lightweight spaceborne telescopes. It is envisioned that the telescopes, having typical mirror diameters of 20 m or larger, would be stowed compactly for launch and transport, then deployed in orbit around the Earth for use in surveillance of the Earth and in exploration of deep space.

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics, Mirrors, Optics, Test equipment and instrumentation

Miniature Hyperspectral Sensors for Imaging on Small UAVs

As unmanned vehicles get smaller and smaller, operational expectations and mission objectives demand a much broader array of platform capabilities — a necessity even with reduced payloads requiring less weight, smaller size, and less power consumption. An interesting dichotomy exists between the need for increasing amounts of valuable information and the operational ability to capture and synthesize this information in real time.

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics, Imaging, Sensors and actuators, Unmanned aerial vehicles

Photonic Analog-to-Digital Converters

Early steps have been taken toward the development of analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) that would incorporate photonic quantizers based on the technology of InP semiconductors. These photonic ADCs are intended to overcome the sampling speed and temporal resolution limitations of state-ofthe- art all-electronic ADCs, so that outputs of radar and other sensor systems at frequencies as high as tens of gigahertz could be sampled directly, without need for analog signal processing to effect down-conversion in frequency prior to sampling.

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics, Electronic equipment, Radar, Sensors and actuators, Semiconductors

Photonic-Crystal-Based Devices for Commercial Applications

Several analog-to-digital converter (ADC) devices and part of a multispectral receiver have been designed, fabricated, and tested to demonstrate their feasibility as part of an effort to establish the organizational and technological foundation for development of photonic-crystal-based devices for commercial and military applications. Also known as photonic-band-gap devices, photonic crystals contain periodic structures having feature sizes in the submicron range — less than the wavelengths of light that the devices are intended to handle. Photonic crystals can be fabricated by techniques used in the integrated-circuit and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) industries.

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics, Optics

Infrared Data Link Using an MQW Modulator on a Retroreflector

A n infrared data link between a ground station and a small uninhabited helicopter in flight has been demonstrated in an effort to develop a type of system for free-space optical communication between (1) a larger and relatively stationary platform, and (2) a smaller and relatively mobile platform. In a system of this type, rather than using laser transmitters with their associated gimbaled telescopes and pointing/tracking subsystems on both platforms, one uses only a single such laser transmitter on the larger platform (in this case, the ground station). The single laser transmitter is capable of tracking the smaller platform (in this case, the helicopter) and transmitting data to the smaller platform in the conventional way via modulation of the outgoing laser beam. The field of view of the receiver on the smaller platform is wide enough to capture the laser beam, without need for a large receiving telescope and its aiming subsystem. For transmitting data from the smaller to the larger platform, a large fraction of the laser power incident on the smaller platform is modulated and retroreflected to the larger platform, by means of an InGaAs-based multiple-quantum-well (MQW) light modulator on a cornercube retroreflector (see Figure 1).

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics, Data exchange, Optics, Rotary-wing aircraft

Continuous-Wave Atom Laser

Progress has been made toward realization of a continuous-wave, phase-andamplitude- stable atom laser based on magnetic guiding, magnetic compression, and continuous distributed evaporative cooling of a sparse cloud of 87Rb atoms. This apparatus is intended to serve as a prototype of sources of coherent matter waves for future atom-interferometric field and motion sensors.

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics, Lasers, Sensors and actuators

Adaptive Optoelectronic Eyes

Aprogram of research has built a technological foundation for further development of systems that could be characterized, variously, as "smart" cameras or adaptive optoelectronic eyes. A system according to this concept would function in an optimal manner to capture images under a variety of lighting conditions and would be capable of semi-autonomous recognition of objects.

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics, Imaging, Optics

Heterodyne RF/Optical Links Utilizing Integrated Photonics

A program of research and development has been directed toward the goals of demonstrating (1) ultra-low-noise communication links in which information is conveyed by phase-modulated radio-frequency (RF) carrier signals that are, in turn, used to modulate laser-generated optical carrier signals and (2) implementation of transmitters and receivers in such links by means of several key integrated optoelectronic and photonic components. Notably, the scheme for integrating these components is based on the use of asymmetric twin optical waveguides (see figure) that afford design versatility in that they enable the use of a broad range of components useful in RF/photonic applications.

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics, Optics, Waveguides, Research and development

Fast Liquid-Crystal-on-Silicon Spatial Light Modulators

Stressed-liquid-crystal (SLC) light-modulating devices suitable for use as liquidcrystal- on-silicon (LCOS) spatial light modulators (SLMs) that could operate in nearand mid-infrared wavelength ranges have been demonstrated. These SLC devices were conceived to exploit the SLC electrooptical effect, which makes it possible to obtain response times shorter than those of prior infrared LCOS SLMs.

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics, Optics, Semiconductors, Silicon alloys

Detecting Change in 3D by Use of an Evidence Grid

Astudy has been undertaken to evaluate a method of detecting change in a three-dimensional (3D) terrain map generated from data acquired by an imaging ladar system carried aboard a moving unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) on patrol. The proposed method involves the use of an evidence grid (described below) in comparing data acquired on a second patrol with data acquired on the first patrol along the same route, in order to determine which, if any, volume elements (voxels) in a 3D map representing the terrain have changed from free space to occupied or vice versa. For the purpose of the method, it is assumed that the terrain is static during each patrol and the only changes of interest occur between patrols. It was recognized in the study that these assumptions are unlikely to hold in realistic scenarios. This study was intended to be a precursor to a study of a method for recognizing a moving obstacle C, particularly a moving pedestrian C during a patrol by an autonomous UGV.

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics, Cartography, Lidar, Surveillance, Terrain, Autonomous vehicles, Military vehicles and equipment