Nanolight Inc.


Main Applications For Uncooled Mid-IR Detectors
Security and Defense Applications
  • Man-Portable Weapons Detectors (Sniper, RPGS, Etc.)
  • Detectors For Active Protection System
  • Low Cost IR Seekers
  • Sensor Fuzed Weapons
  • Detectors For IR Active Imaging Systems
  • Smart Munitions
Industrial Applications
  • Industrial Quality Inspection (Glass, Steel, Coal, Etc.)
  • Manufacturing Process Control (Laser Welding, Cutting, Control and Characterization)
  • Thrusters Combustion Characterization (Jets, Rockets, Etc.)
  • Environmental (Gas Detection and Control, Pollution Measurements, Etc.)
  • Fire Detection
  • Unattended Sensors
  • Predictive Maintenance
  • Transport
Mid-Infrared (IR) sensing and imaging have widespread military and industrial applications (see table on the right). Many applications require high performance and affordable solutions. The mid-IR detector system thus needs to be compact, portable and cost-effective, favoring uncooled midIR detectors without a bulky and expensive cryocooler. To date, uncooled, lowcost Pb-salt (PbS and PbSe) photoconductive (PC) detectors remain the choice for many applications in the 1-5 µm mid-IR spectral range. The key figure of merit used to characterize photodetector is called specific detectivity, or D*. The higher the D*, the smaller temperature difference from the target object a detector can tell, making the detector more sensitive. Detector sensing or imaging system that has higher D* will have competitive advantages over its competitors. Currently about 20 companies are selling such detector products. The table on next page lists major companies involved in Pb-salt detectors. They are all striking to achieve high D* value.

Recent development by OU optoelectronic group and Nanolight Inc Team

Partially Sponsored by an OCAST grant, a team of OU opto-electronic group and Nanolight Inc led by Dr. Shi has recently clarified a nearly century long argument for PbSe PC detector and developed an optimized fabrication process for Pb-salt uncooled PC detectors. This research leads to record high D* of PbSe mid-IR PC detector. Figure on the right shows detector performance (D*) of OU PbSe detector in comparisons with the same type of detectors from commercial companies. Data from the companies are collected from their published specification sheet. The group has also successfully developed a prototype PC detector package. The upper left figure shows one packaged in a TO5, and the left figure shows a room temperature detector packaged with an amplifier.

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The Global Market perspectives on uncooled Pb-salt PC detectors

Current companies making or selling Pb-salt uncooled detectors
  • Teledyne Judson Technologies
  • Agiltron
  • Calsensors
  • Hamamatsu
  • Thorlab
  • Newport
  • New Infrared Technology
  • En’ Urga Inc.
  • Pacer USA LLC
  • Scitec Instrument Ltd.
  • Sciencetech Inc
  • Laser Components GmbH
  • NKO Ltd ( )
  • BNN International
  • Electro-Optical System Inc
  • McPherson Inc
  • New England Photoconductor
  • Equipements Scientifiques S.A. (
Markets for mid IR sensors are estimated at $70.2 million in 2008 and are anticipated to reach $865.4 million by 2015.” (Source: Global Information, Inc). Data on the market share of uncooled Pb-salt PC detector is not available. The list on the right provides information on world-wide companies that are involved in Pbsalt PC detectors. The commercial and dual use (excluding military) world-wide market for infrared imaging equipment was estimated well over 2 billion dollars. Currently Pb-salt detectors are not the major player on the imaging market. OU group’s recent breakthrough in IV-VI lead salt PC detectors could lead to new and better understanding of critical issues in Pb-salt materials, and could help introduce process they developed to other Pb-salt devices such as photovoltaic detectors and therefore open doors for Pb-salt detectors to gain market share in midwave/long-wave imaging applications.

Related Project

Inspired by the bio compound eyes, the opto-electronic group at OU led by Dr. Shi is developing a technology to emulate the insect compound-eyes by using semiconductor micro-size crystal arrays. The unique nature of IV-VI Pb-salt materials such as PbSe and PbS enables formation of high quality micro-size crystal arrays on non-planar surface. This enables fabrication of mid-IR detectors on spherical surface (figure at right) and biomimetic compound eyes detector. fAir Force Office of Scientific Research has recently awarded one million dollar to Dr. Shi’s group to develop such device. The optoelectronic group is located at a new OU building with a cleanroom facility. This state-of-the-art cleanroom facility offers over 3360sq ft of Class 10,000 general and Class 1000 photo lab cleanroom space. The equipment toolsets provide full turnkey solutions for ongoing research projects and enable fabrication of advanced electronic and optoelectronic devices using innovative compound semiconductor materials.