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III-V Infrared Detectors
Above: JPL developed a mid-infrared camera based on 256x256 quantum well infrared photodetector (QWIP) focal plane arrays. The camera is designed to operate from the prime focus of the Hale 200-inch (5-meter) telescope at Palomar with a wide 2'x2' field of view and diffraction-limited 0.5" pixels. QWICPIC is designed to observe at 8.5 and 12.5 μm simultaneously to map comparatively large regions of the sky in thermal dust emission or to survey highly confused regions for reddened embedded objects. The Hale telescope (f/3.3) was the world’s largest effective telescope for 45 years (1948–1993).

Mid-Infrared Detectors

Innovations at MDL by the Infrared Photonics Technology Group enable observations of our planet in specific infrared regions, as well as mapping of the world's ecosystems, defense, cloud structures, and natural disasters. MDL has in the past and continues to today to develop state of the art Infrared Detectors, Focal Planes, Integrated Dewar Cooler Assemblies, and Thermal Imagers.

The goal is to develop novel high-performance infrared detectors and focal plane arrays for NASA and other government agencies, thereby enhancing United States competitiveness worldwide. The detectors are based on compounds combining elements from group III with those of group V of the periodic table, called III-V semiconductors, for example, indium gallium arsenide. This work has been at the forefront of advanced infrared detector technology development and the group has developed many patented novel concepts in the past. Capabilities include novel detector design, epitaxial materials growth, end-to-end large-area detector fabrication process, characterization of infrared focal plane arrays, and delivery of focal planes and integrated dewar cooler assemblies to infrared instruments.

The members of the group have produced over 350 publications and 26 US and international patents on infrared detection technologies. Most of these patents are commercialized via the Caltech/JPL commercialization process. Many infrared detector technologies, including the high-operating-temperature barrier infrared detector developed by MDL, have been successfully transferred to US industries for government and commercial applications.

This work has been recognized by many awards, commendations and best paper awards. Some selected recognitions include: NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, two NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medals, NASA Early Career Public Achievement Medal, IEEE Aron Kressel Award, two IEEE Distinguished Lecture Awards, MSS Herschel Award, SPIE George Goddard Award, and two Feature Articles in Applied Physics Letters.

Mid-Infrared Detectors

Products & Processes

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: HOT BIRDs


There is a need to develop a new generation of high-performance, cost-effective infrared photodetectors and focal plane arrays (FPAs) with the flexibility to meet a variety of application requirements. Operation at higher temperatures...

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: Dewar Coolers

Dewar Coolers

Even with higher operating temperatures for detectors and other components, there is still a need for custom built coolers. Another part of the Infrared Photonics Group designs, fabricates, and delivers flight qualified integrated...

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: IR Cameras

IR Cameras

Images in various regions of the spectrum are an integral part of JPL's contribution to NASA science and public outreach. The Infrared Photonics Group also designs, fabricates, characterizes, and delivers mid-wavelength and long-...

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: Microlens


Single microlens and microlens arrays operating in the visible and near-infrared spectral bands are well-developed and are utilized in many devices such as smartphone cameras. However, microlens technology in the mid- and long-...

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: Flat Lens

Flat Lens

High operating temperature for detectors can be achieved by using optical concentrators that increase optical collection area while keeping detectors volume constant. The most common type of optical concentrator is a spherical microlens...

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: Nanowires


Modern Earth science, planetary science, and astronomy increasingly depend on large-area focal plane array technology for high spatial resolution. There are a number of approaches being explored to meet this challenge...

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