Luna, teamed with Dr. John Bowers of UCSB, will develop an integrated chip-scale optical magnetometer with an integral Silicon/III-V laser. This innovative product will enable new levels of performance for in situ and remote sensing in NASA’s space missions. The coupling of a silicon based optical magnetometer with an on-chip light source using heterogeneous silicon photonics drastically minimizes device size, weight, and power (SWaP) while maintaining high performance magnetic field sensing. Benefitting from wafer-level fabrication, monolithically processed components allow for a sensing instrument with no moving parts which can be hardened to endure the harsh conditions of space missions. A heterogeneous Si/III-V laser eliminates the need for a bulky, external light source by coupling light directly into the optical magnetometer either via butt-coupling or directly integrated on-chip.
Phase I will prove the feasibility of a silicon optical magnetometer based on interferometric principles which can measure both magnitude and direction of a magnetic field. Studies on the sensitivity and range of the magnetometer will be completed and the design refined through high-fidelity simulations. A laboratory demonstration of a silicon photonics device with an external laser will prove the feasibility of the sensing mechanism and the approach for future system-on-chip fabrication. During Phase II, the team will fabricate a prototype silicon optical magnetometer coupled to a heterogeneously integrated silicon laser to demonstrate a lightweight, rugged, and miniature magnetometer device suitable for NASA scientific missions in space. A successful project will result in significant commercial potential and will advance the state-of-the-art of silicon photonics.
The silicon based optical magnetometer will address NASA needs for in situ and remote sensing on small spacecraft platforms where low size, weight, power and cost (SWaP-C) are critical. Coupled with a laser system-on-chip, the magnetometer can support NASA missions ranging from recording the varying strength and direction of a planet's magnetic field to analyzing magnetic properties of materials to determine their identity. The silicon fabrication process leverages CMOS manufacturing techniques to allow for miniaturization at reduced costs.
Optical magnetometers offer superior sensitivity, resolution, and precision, in addition to immunity to electromagnetic interference compared to traditional fluxgate sensors. Applications range widely, including detection of archaeological sites, directional drilling of oil, underwatering monitoring of