Two years ago, on January 29, 2021, IRflex Corporation signed a Phase II 800,000$US contract with the Department of Defense after completion of the Phase I project of the same title to develop an anti-reflective surface for infrared Optical fiber Endfaces. After 2 years completing the Phase II project objective, IRflex was awarded the option 300,000$US to continue the project.
The objective of the project is to develop an anti-reflective surface for use on bare and connectorized infrared fiber optic cable assembly in the wavelength interests of 1.4 to 5 micron. In such region, optical materials with a large index of refraction are often used. According to the Fresnel equation, reflection loss increases significantly when the difference between the index of the exit medium and the index of the entrance medium is 1 or greater. In addition to the need for low reflectivity, anti-reflective surfaces must be tolerant to high optical power. The end result of this project is an anti-reflective surface with an improved damage threshold for high power application that can be manufactured.
On May 11, 2023, IRflex Corporation signed a SBIR Phase I contract with NAVAIR for Optical Additive Manufacturing in Mid-Wave and long-Wave Infrared Bands.
The military extensively uses mid-wave infrared (MWIR) and long-wave infrared (LWIR) sensors and cameras for reconnaissance and surveillance of targets of interest by thermal emissions. IR cameras require broadband imaging systems composed of several IR lenses made of different materials to correct for chromatic aberrations (focal shift caused by dn/d-wavelength) or for a thermalization (focal shift caused by dn/dT). IR cameras and the high-definition imaging systems are very expensive and are often exposed to harsh environments (sand, salt water, vibration, temperature variation, etc.) and can be damaged. The potential use of MWIR-LWIR AM to print imaging quality optical lens is highly desirable and critical for current and future Navy IR optical systems. The AM process has the potential for depositing MWIR and LWIR optical precursor materials with sufficient quality and precision for IR optical components or to perform front surface repair on existing IR optical components. The MWIR-LWIR AM will allow engineering of new compact optical systems with high imaging performance, fewer optical elements, less weight and volume, and easier alignment compared to current multi-components IR imaging optics.
PHASE I work will analyze the current state-of-the-art MWIR and LWIR AM technology. Identify the technological, innovative, and reliability challenges to determine the feasibility of using MWIR and LWIR AM for the refurbishment of MWIR and LWIR optical components (the required optical properties, full densification, and smooth surface finish, as provided in the Description), and propose a plan for how these will be addressed. Perform a preliminary identification of hazards and cost comparisons for MWIR and LWIR AM of MWIR and LWIR optical components.