Ubiquitous Thermal Imager
Develop a MEMS-based thermal imager technology that has the potential to overcome the existing cost barrier to broader use of the technology for the benefit of mass markets such as the automotive, firefighting, security and outdoor recreation industries.
Sponsor: Agiltron, Inc15 Cabot Road
Woburn, MA 01801
A team led by Agiltron has proposed developing a micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) for a low-cost, high-performance infrared sensor that could be incorporated in a wide variety of mass-market imaging and night-vision devices. Thermal imagers can see objects in total darkness and can see through rain, camouflage, snow, fog and smoke. Infrared technology could be a critically important enhancement to human and machine vision, not only for law enforcement and emergency first-responders, but for builders, energy technicians, and a wide variety of industrial and commercial applications. The widespread adoption of thermal imaging is limited by the high cost associated with traditional thermal imaging technologies based on semiconductor electronics. Agilitron and partners Advanced Microsensors (Shrewsbury, Mass.) and L-3 Communications Infrared Products (Dallas, Texas) plan to replace the current semiconductor sensor array technology with a micro-machined array of tiny mechanical sensors that respond directly to thermal radiation in much the same way that a bimetallic thermostat responds to temperature changes. This non-contacted photomechanical sensor array could be produced by standard mass-production processes used in the semiconductor industry at unprecedented low cost. It will be matched with wafer-level packaging, readout, and infrared lens technologies to produce an extremely low cost thermal imaging system. The proposed high-risk technology holds the promise of making ubiquitous deployment of affordable thermal imaging products a reality. Successful development and commercialization could enable a proliferation of users in the automotive, firefighting, security and outdoor recreation industries.