PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: Jane Platt
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEDecember 9, 1996
NEW INFRARED CAMERA PROVES GOOD THINGS COME IN SMALL PACKAGES
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and Inframetrics,
Billerica, MA, have unveiled the world's smallest long-wavelength
infrared camera, a cutting-edge device with great promise for
medicine and commerce.
The palmcorder-sized camera, known as the Quantum Well
Infrared Photodetector (QWIP) Infracam, was developed by JPL's
Microdevices Laboratory in partnership with Inframetrics as a
successor to the previous generation of hand-held QWIP cameras.
"The new version of QWIP is four times lighter, has five
times less volume and uses 10 times less power than the previous
QWIP camera," said JPL technologist Dr. Sarath Gunapala, who
helped develop the QWIP technology. "Because of its portability,
low power requirements and high-resolution infrared imaging, I
envision a wide range of industrial, geologic, medical, law
enforcement and military uses."
Dr.Gunapala pointed out the QWIP Infracam may be useful for
maintaining product quality control by detecting overheated parts
and faulty welds. "It has great potential for surveillance,
concealed weapon detection, medical imaging and observation of
volcanoes and other phenomena on Earth," he said.
The camera's commercial and safety potentials were also
noted by Infracam's Vice President of Research and Development,
Norm Stetson, who said, "The camera will be useful whenever heat
is a symptom of a fault, such as a loose bolt in an electrical
substation or a leak in a roof."
The QWIP camera also has potential use for firefighters in
locating hotspots and engaging in rescue missions. This
application got a trial run during the October 1996 fires in the
California beach community of Malibu. The previous generation
QWIP camera enabled the crew of a KCAL-TV news helicopter to
survey the fire scene and find lingering hotspots.
The new, smaller camera weighs 1.1 kilograms (2.5 pounds),
including the battery, viewfinder and a 50-millimeter focal
length infrared lens. It can run for more than two hours on
a standard camcorder battery.
The camera features a large-area, long wavelength QWIP focal
plane array, which gives it greater sensitivity, resolution and
stability than previous infrared cameras. The array can detect
infrared radiation in the 8-to 9-micrometer (millionths of a
meter) wavelength range. These wavelengths are 20 times longer,
or lower in energy, than visible light. At these wavelengths,
objects at room temperature glow the same way red-hot objects
glow when viewed by the naked eye.
The new QWIP camera's focal plane array was developed at
JPL, while Inframetrics built the anti-reflection coated
germanium lens assembly, the camera body, the electronics and
the cryogenic cooler, which runs at 71 degrees Kelvin (-326
degrees Fahrenheit). The camera utilizes the AE-166 readout
multiplexer, an electronic package which works in conjunction
with the focal plane array. The multiplexer was developed by
Amber, a subsidiary of Raytheon Co.
Funding for the array was supported jointly by the Advanced
Technology and Mission Studies Division of NASA's Office of Space
Science, and the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. Camera
development was sponsored by the U.S. Army Night Vision
For more information visit the QWIP home page at:
[Note to editors: Photos and video of the QWIP camera are
available by calling the JPL Public Information Office.]