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26 March 2008


Sunovia/EPIR to develop IR technologies for night-vision surveillance with Army Research Lab & BAE

Sunovia Energy Technologies Inc of Sarasota, FL, USA and EPIR Technologies Inc of Bolingbrook, IL, USA have established a joint cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and defense contractor BAE Systems (BAE), which supplies IR detectors and imagers to the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security.

EPIR develops materials and devices related to IR detection and imaging used in night-vision, missile tracking, exploration in space and other applications. In particular, EPIR, together with the Microphysics Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago (which is also headed by the firm’s president, Dr Siva Sivananthan), pioneered the growth of mercury cadmium telluride (MCT).

Existing MCT materials are typically grown using liquid phase epitaxy (LPE) on bulk cadmium zinc telluride (CdZnTe) substrates, which are expensive, have limited scalability, and are very fragile (hence, overall materials cost are expensive and processing yields are low). This also restricts scalability of the array form factor and creates a technology barrier to manufacturing wide-angle panoramic IR cameras (essential for US night-vision surveillance capabilities).

Following a long-term collaboration between EPIR and ARL headed by Dr Herbert Pollehn (deputy director of the Army’s Electro-Optics and Photonics Division), the CRADA is designed to develop EPIR’s MCT process on more commercially viable and scalable silicon substrates. “EPIR is focused on developing MBE MCT materials technology on silicon substrates, and the CRADA offers an opportunity to bring a government laboratory and BAE Systems, a large defense contractor, together with EPIR to develop this scalable and low-cost technology,” says Pollehn. “This technology will enable large-format IR focal plane array development,” he adds.

The CRADA will qualify MCT material grown at EPIR by molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) for use in the production of IR detectors and read-out ICs for IR cameras by BAE Systems (which currently uses LPE). Most future high-performance IR detectors and imagers will require the precise, atomic-level material control and reproducibility of MBE, says EPIR.

Specifically, the CRADA aims to insert test samples of MCT material grown by MBE at EPIR into the production line at BAE Systems and to evaluate and optimize the material and processing, based on device performance results. EPIR will grow and completely characterize and document the material and its growth parameters. ARL will perform any device processing unique to MBE-grown material that BAE Systems is not now equipped to do. BAE Systems will insert the material received from ARL into its production line and characterize the performance of the completed devices. Both the growth and the processing will be optimized to obtain maximum device performance and EPIR will develop specifications for its material based on the device characterizations to be performed by BAE Systems.

Sunovia and EPIR aim to use the CRADA to become a major US supplier of MBE-grown MCT to BAE Systems for IR detector and focal plane array production and for the ARL processing technology to be transferred to BAE Systems.

See related items:

Sunovia and EPIR collaborating with ETH Zurich on CdTe solar cells

Sunovia and EPIR complete Phase I solar cell and IR plant

Sunovia establishes infrared division

Sunovia and EPIR win NASA contract for II-VI encapsulated PV cells

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