Infrared imaging is key to many NASA missions, whether it be cool astronomy or monitoring the earth. Infrared sensors used in probe and satellite missions need to provide orders of magnitude larger effective well depth, thereby affording longer integration times. Longer integration times provide improved signal-to-noise ratio and/or higher operating temperature, which reduces cooler capacity, resulting in SWaP-C savings. Digital pixel sensors (DPS) can offer vastly improved dynamic range and a welcome disconnect between sensitivity and maximum signal. No longer does the sensitivity have to worsen by the square root of the increase in well capacity, as is the case of conventional analog pixels. Instead, the maximum well capacity can be increased independently on a DPS by increasing the number of bits in each pixel.
As part of a previous NASA SBIR effort, Senseeker Engineering had the opportunity to implement a better DPS using the pipelined Extended Counting approach that improves performance for dual band imaging, reduces power consumption and alleviates signal distribution issues. This DPROIC was successfully designed and fabricated, but has not yet been tested to verify that the operation meets the HDR performance expectations for various NASA applications. Senseeker proposes to execute a new NASA SBIR effort that is focused on testing this advanced DPROIC for high dynamic range infrared imaging. Senseeker’s DPROIC will advance the state-of-art relative to readout IC products that are available to NASA today and the digital pixel enabled performance will provide the larger well depth (2.5 Ge-), longer integration times (> 100 ms) and higher operating temperatures that will be required for upcoming NASA missions.
- Earth observing including water vapor, sea ice, land and water temperature, ecosystem dynamics, weather science, land resource mapping
- Solar System and astronomy applications such as imaging cold bodies near bright objects, measuring temperatures and atmospheres of planets
- Applications requiring two color detectors to determine precise irradiances at two different wavelengths radiating from the same area at the same time; this is further enhanced by the ability of the DPROIC’s high dynamic range
- Any infrared application requiring high dynamic range and improved sensitivity
- Ground combat and air combat applications of all types using a wide variety of detector materials and cutoff wavelengths
- Military surveillance compatible with sun-approach warnings
- Missile seekers
- Any application requiring high dynamic range and a lower-cost system
- Homeland security applications