HRL Labs to Investigate Plasmonic Technology to Assist Satellite Intelligence Gathering

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HRL Laboratories, LLC, has received an award from the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) to commence plasmonic imager research to meet new and emerging satellite surveillance challenges and improve the agency's surveillance accuracy and precision.

HRL Laboratories, LLC, has received an award from the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) to commence plasmonic imager research to meet new and emerging satellite surveillance challenges and improve the agency's surveillance accuracy and precision.

Development of HRL's proposed radically new plasmonic-imaging technology could one day provide the agency an imaging capability that is smaller yet provides tunability, higher resolution, and a larger field of view than current imaging technology. The novel imager concept has potential performance features never achieved before, including imaging in multispectral bands with wavelength tunability within each band.

The proposed imager would also operate at room temperature, conserving electrical power for cooling that can be used for other critical satellite functions. Moreover, HRL scientists will investigate a simple structure comprised of metals and dielectrics, allowing the formation of a conformal structure for curved focal plane imaging, significantly reducing the size, weight, and complexity of current front-end infrared imager optics.

While meeting the NRO's stringent capability requirements, the proposed imager would also have the benefit of simple fabrication, since it avoids the use of the complicated semiconductor structures used in conventional infrared detectors.

"The proposed plasmonic imager concept has not been studied before," said Dr. Keyvan Sayyah, Senior Research Scientist in HRL's Applied Electromagnetics Laboratory. "As such, the technology is risky but has a potential high payoff."

The goals of the nine-month effort are to investigate the feasibility of plasmonics-based imagers through simulations, initial fabrication and testing, and analysis of imager performance limitations and risks using design and modeling studies.

HRL scientists estimate an extended development period of about five years to construct a fully functional demonstration prototype of the plasmonic imager.

HRL Laboratories, LLC, Malibu, California, is a corporate research and development laboratory owned by The Boeing Company and General Motors. HRL provides custom research and development and contract services for its LLC Members, the U.S. government, and other commercial entities.

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Michele Durant
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