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7 March 2007


Sofradir to supply NEC Toshiba Space with IR detector for climate-change monitoring

Sofradir of Veurey-Voroize, near Grenoble, France, which manufactures infrared detectors for military, space and commercial applications, has won a €3.2m ($4.2m) contract to supply a custom-made bi-spectral long-wave infrared detector (LWIR) to NEC Toshiba Space in 2009 for the Second Generation Global Imager (SGLI). Based on mercury cadmium telluride (MCT), the bi-spectral LWIR will incorporate two focal plane arrays (centered on 10.8 µm and 12 µm wavelengths, respectively) hybridized on a single read-out circuit for accurate registration.  

The SGLI is a multi-spectral imaging radiometer, and one of three observation instruments destined for the GCOM-C satellite of the Global Change Observation Mission, which is due for launch in 2012 by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Over a period of five years, GCOM-C aims to measure geophysical parameters that are uncertain in current climate models, including optical thickness of aerosols and clouds, thermal fluxes, carbon fluxes, and the sources and sinks of greenhouse gases. The SGLI in particular aims to conduct detailed global monitoring of the ground surface, as well as the middle and lower atmospheres, to enable better prediction of global environmental changes (both natural and man-made). The LWIR detector will provide data in thermal infrared wavelengths. “This contract gives us the opportunity to further extend our wavelength offering for space applications and gets us involved in a high-priority issue, global environmental change,” says Sofradir’s CEO Philippe Bensussan.

Last November, after five years of growth, increased customer demand and industrialization of a new third-generation IR detector process, Sofradir received permission to construct a new €9m plant (to be operational by the end of 2007). This will enable it to almost double its production area (from 5500m2 to 9000m2) and to become the first IR detector manufacturer in Europe to use MBE and the only one worldwide to use MBE on an industrial scale, the firm claims (as well as upgrading from 2-inch to 4-inch MCT wafers).