Sofradir and Onera Unveil a New IR Demonstrator

April 27, 2011

Integrating fisheye optics (360 degree imaging lenses) into Sofradir's IR detector will save space in missile warning systems and bring performance benefits.

CHATENAY MALABRY and PALAISEAU, France, -- Sofradir, a leading developer and manufacturer of advanced infrared detectors for military, space and industrial applications, and Onera, a center of excellence for aerospace and defense research, announced that they will demonstrate a new infrared (IR) detector with integrated Fisheye optics at Sofradir booth No 503 during the SPIE 2011 Defense, Security & Sensing Exhibition, April 26–28, in Orlando, Fl.

The new IR detector with integrated Fisheye optics, based on Sofradir's cutting-edge, high-performance Mercury Cadmium Telluride (MCT/HgCdTe) technology, features built-in 360° imaging. Previously, systems could only offer 360° imaging by using separate optical components.

The new product will help producers of missile warning systems reduce the size of the associated optical sensors and also make them more robust.

"Sofradir and Onera are delighted to announce this new IR detector with integrated Fisheye optics for 360° imaging that meets defense market demands for more compact equipment," said Philippe Bensussan, chairman and CEO of Sofradir. "This product marks an another important step in Sofradir's drive to bring customers best-in-class solutions, so that they can develop even smaller and better performing imaging systems."

The direct integration of 360° imaging lenses into the IR detector offers several benefits. First, the number of optical components is reduced. As a result, the camera's optical transmission is increased. This, in turn, improves the camera's sensitivity, a key feature in the performance of IR cameras. By succeeding in embedding the imaging lens into the cooling chamber, Sofradir and Onera have kept stray light to a minimum. The ability to minimize stray light means that the thermal response and the background current are more stable. This extra stability reduces the need to correct non-uniformity, a weakness that occurs in standard IR cameras. By integrating 360 degree optics into the IR detector, Sofradir and Onera have overcome several obstacles to improving the overall image quality in missile warning systems.

Missile warning systems are used on selected aircraft to notify the pilot of threats and to trigger the aircraft's countermeasures systems. They consist of a number of optical sensor converters, a computer processor and a control indicator. Each optical converter houses an infrared camera.

The new Fisheye IR detector is the result of a joint development project between Sofradir and Onera, with the support from the French Defense procurement agency DGA, which began 24 months ago. The partners demonstrated a prototype 640 x 512 15-micron pixel pitch VGA format IR chip with integrated optics at the 2010 SPIE exhibition. The 360° imaging is a new function.

SPIE Defense, Security & Sensing Exhibition 2011 is one of the defense & security industry's leading meetings for optronics. It brings together top researchers, scientists and engineers from the military, industry and academia. Programs cover the latest enabling technologies and applications in infrared, sensors, image analysis, and other systems and devices.

About Sofradir
Sofradir develops and manufactures advanced infrared detectors (IR) for military, space and commercial applications. It specializes in cooled IR detectors based on a sophisticated high performance technology, Mercury Cadmium Telluride (MCT), and its vast product portfolio of scanning and staring arrays covers the entire infrared spectrum. Sofradir also offers QWIP detectors developed in cooperation with Thales.

Sofradir's headquarters are located in Chatenay-Malabry, near Paris, France. Its manufacturing facilities and those of ULIS, its subsidiary that manufactures low-cost uncooled IR detectors, are located in Veurey-Voroize, near Grenoble, in France. Sofradir EC, the company's US subsidiary, operates in Fairfield, NJ. Together Sofradir, ULIS and Sofradir EC employ more than 500 people.

About Onera
Onera is the leading aerospace and defense research organization in France. A public establishment created in 1946, it reports to the French Ministry of Defense. Onera has over 2,000 employees at eight major facilities, including 1,500 scientists, engineers and technicians, including 220 doctoral candidates and post-doc researchers. Building on its multidisciplinary expertise and a world-class fleet of test facilities, Onera works for both government and industry, spanning major corporations and small businesses. Onera deploys an innovative partnership-based approach to research, with five times more contract business per researcher than the average in France. In 2009, Onera had revenues of 210 million euros.

Onera is a recognized source of innovative solutions, technical expertise and long-term design vision, paving the way for tomorrow's programs. It has contributed to some of today's most successful aerospace and defense programs, including the Ariane 5 launcher, Airbus jetliners, Eurocopter helicopters, the Rafale fighter and the Falcon 7X business jet.

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