NASA STTR 2008 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 08-2 T4.01-9934
RESEARCH SUBTOPIC TITLE: Lidar, Radar and Coherent Fiber Budnle Arrays
PROPOSAL TITLE: Tunable, Narrow Line Width Mid-Infrared Laser Source

NAME: Maxion Technologies, Inc. NAME: University of Maryland
STREET: 20 New England Business Center STREET: 3112 Lee Building
CITY: Andover CITY: College Park
STATE/ZIP: MA  01810 - 1077 STATE/ZIP: MD  20742 - 5141
PHONE: (978) 689-0003 PHONE: (301) 405-6274

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
John Bruno
5000 College Avenue, Ste 3121
College Park, MD 20740 - 3817
(301) 405-6447

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 5

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
The purpose of this project is to advance the technology of interband cascade (IC) lasers and their facet coatings and to design, build, and deliver to NASA a tunable, narrow linewidth mid-infrared laser source operating in the 3.2 ¡V 3.6 micron wavelength band. Initial work will develop improved IC laser active regions as well as ultra-low-reflectivity anti-reflection facet coatings. We will also develop an effective epi-side-down die attach process for IC lasers using a Au/Sn solder. The objective of this initial work is to achieve laser chips emitting in the appropriate wavelength region and operating in continuous wave mode at heat sink temperatures > 25„aC and with several 10s of mW of output power. The team will then use our extensive experience with external cavity laser sources to design, build, and deliver a versatile, tunable mid-infrared source to NASA using the developed IC laser gain chip. The delivered tunable laser source will be at a TRL level of 5 and will enable sensitive earth science trace gas measurements and enhance NASA¡¦s existing measurement capability by significantly improving the sensitivity and performance of trace gas sensing by virtue of a considerably improved source technology.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The tunable source developed under this program could be used in LIDAR instruments and components that are required by NASA to support remote sensing measurements for future earth science missions. NASA particularly needs advanced components for in-situ gas measurements using tunable laser spectrometers in circumstances where available platforms such as aircraft, balloons, surface and entry probes, and landed rovers, present severe limitations on resources. Tunable laser absorption spectroscopy is a simple measurement technique known for its high sensitivity and specificity. For instance, tunable laser spectroscopy can measure the CH4 abundance down to 10 parts in 1E12 with preconcentration and to 1 ppbv without preconcentration. Measurement of the isotopic ratio 13C/12C in CH4 will help assess the biogenic origin of CH4 on a planet like Mars. Also important are laser sources for remote measurements of carbon-based trace gases (CO2, CH4, C2H6, and CO) from aircraft and spacecraft operating to nadir using the earth¡¦s surface as a target, as well as for profiling measurements from the ground using atmospheric backscatter. The same laser source developed for these NASA requirements would also be a very attractive spectroscopy product for the scientific community.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The tunable laser technology developed in this project can be used to support a wide variety of commercial products. Leak detection alone is a huge industry hampered by the lack of such a portable laser source. Residential natural gas companies routinely search for leaks in distribution systems using very expensive methods (including trucks manned with funnel suction lines and spectroscopic equipment). The same situation exists at supplier levels where gas transmission, production, and storage facilities use enormous amounts of resources detecting leaks. Low cost, portable leak monitors, enabled by this source technology, would reduce the cost of facility ownership. Finally, the cost benefits that come with volume opportunities associated with semiconductor-based lasers could lead to devices with costs easily below $1000 per unit in large volumes and hence, portable sensors at unit costs below $2500. This is well below a critical price point in the chemical sensor industry.

TECHNOLOGY TAXONOMY MAPPING (NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.)

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