Achieving NASA's strategic goal of 'Expanding Human Knowledge through New Scientific Discoveries' requires high-performance instrumentation capable of operating under extreme conditions while maintaining a low size, weight, and power. Hyperspectral imaging (HSI) systems represent a class of instruments that have played a significant role in previous NASA missions in remote sensing and planetary surveying on Earth and other planetary systems. The HSI systems on these missions have relied on bulky optics that also require large system sizes to achieve high spectral resolution. The large size and mass of these spectrometers represent a significant barrier to widespread adoption due to the opportunity cost of the space, weight, and power consumption.
Tunoptix proposes to utilize meta-optics in conjunction with computational imaging to drastically reduce the SWaP of HSI systems while maintaining high spectral and spatial resolution. A meta-optic consists of an array of subwavelength scatterers, which locally control the amplitude, phase, and spectrum of incident light with high spatial resolution. A metasurface is optically thin, with an active layer thickness of of less than a micrometer, and total optical thickness on the order of millimeters.
Tunoptix will develop a HSI system based on an optical front-end and computational back-end. This approach leverages the unique ability of meta-optics to implement near-arbitrary optical functionalities to implement a well-conditioned wavelength-dependent transformation on incident light. This will then be decoded using a low latency postprocessing algorithm to extract a high-fidelity hyperspectral image. With this method, Tunoptix well demonstrate a compact, snapshot polarization independent HSI system with F/1.8, a 10 cm x 8 cm x 4 cm form factor, and a mass of less than 1 kg operating over a bandwidth of 350-1050 nm, and with over 40 channels.
A drastically lower SWaP snapshot HSI system would reduce the opportunity cost for their adoption in a wider set of NASA missions and applications. In particular, applications of a low SWaP, snapshot HSI system would include satellite-based and rover-based imaging and spectroscopy of planetary surfaces, airborne remote sensing of coastal and oceanic regions, and in-field inspection of mission-critical satellite systems.
The primary applications for an HSI system in the private sector would be in quality control and inspection for industrial settings, and plane-based or drone-based surveying. In these applications, the design would increase throughput of the customer's processes while maintaining spectral and spatial resolution and relaxing stabilization tolerances when compared to pushbroom HSI systems.