Novel Long-Wave Infrared Transparent Thermoset Polymers for Optical Components and Imaging Systems

University of Arizona Background
Optical technologies in the LWIR spectrum (7-14 microns) offer important advantages for high resolution thermal imaging in near, or complete darkness, which has been extensively utilized in the defense sector, but has significant potential in emerging consumer markets and transportation. Current transmissive materials used for IR imaging are based on inorganic materials, such as germanium (Ge) or chalcogenide glasses (ChG’s), which are very expensive and difficult to process. The use of polymeric transmissive materials would offer numerous cost and processing advantages, but historically have suffered from inferior optical properties and low transparency in the LWIR spectrum. A major challenge in the design of LWIR transparent organic materials is the fact that nearly all organic molecules absorb in this spectral window which lies within the “IR fingerprint region.”
There is a need for inexpensive materials and a technological push to expand the materials capacity from the mid-IR to the longwave –IR. The challenge therefore lies in creation of less costly, next generation IR thermal imaging systems is the creation of less expensive transmissive materials required for lenses and windows.
Technology Overview
University of Arizona inventors have developed:

An approach to creating specific materials that are transparent to Long Wave Infrared. The proposed materials may be used as a matrix for incorporating IR transparent nanoparticles to form infrared transparent CHIP nanoparticle material. This new process allows for the creation of new copolymers with improved thermomechanical properties and enhanced optical properties.
New polymeric materials with improved Long Wave Infrared (LWIR) transmission as demonstrated by IR spectroscopy and IR thermal imaging. A one mm thick polymer film demonstrated transmittance with an LWIR camera in the 7.5-13 micron regime. The polymer is a thermoset and can be fabricated into windows, lenses, and prisms using simple diamond polishing to create optical quality components.

Benefits

Inexpensive materials
Easy to process
Eliminates toxicity and difficulties in processing of current materials used such as Germanium

Applications

Infrared Thermal Imaging System
Materials Transparent for Short Wave, Mid Wave, and Long Wave Infrared
Imaging Systems for Automobile Industry
Navigation systems for vehicles
Lenses for transmission of LWIR
Waveguides for transmission of LWIR
Optics

UA19-204, UA19-075

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