As light travels fast, sees much and is non-invasive, it has many uses in innovative military applications. PHAPPS week can provide companies active in the defence industry with the knowledge, contacts and ideas to sharpen their innovative edge.
High-precision sensing devices
The military relies heavily on the optical spectrum for sensing, mapping and identifying enemy intent over large distances. Photonics can provide the military with higher quality sensing and communications devices.
An example of a photonics based technology for military use is multispectral imaging, which can extract significantly more information about its surroundings than regular sensors. Multispectral imaging can be used for tasks such as locating explosives, uncovering enemy movements and pinpointing the depth of hidden bunkers.
Photonics based spectrometers and holographic imagers are also used in the military. A spectrometer is a chemical sensor that can be used to detect explosives in liquids and solids. A holographic imager is a device that produces 3D visualisations of urban and mountainous terrain. A major advantage of these photonics devices is that they are lightweight and small, making them easily portable for soldiers in the field.
Below are some examples of photonics technologies currently researched for use in the military:
Imaging Sensors & Optics
Increasing and enhancing imaging capabilities to solve soldier problems like obscured vision, long-range identification and high performance infrared imaging. All this at higher operating temperatures and with reduced size, weight, power, and cost.
Ultraviolet (UV) Optoelectronics
Developing new devices with enhanced material properties for UV detectors, light emitting diodes and lasers. Applications include sensing, water purification and monitoring, threat mitigation and communications.
Exploring specialty materials and devices designed to protect eyes and sensors from wavelength agile microsecond to nanosecond pulsed lasers and ultrafast lasers in multiple wavelength bands.
High Energy & Tactical Lasers
Investigating materials for solid state lasers suitable for military applications. Research is directed at improving laser average and peak power, thermal management, scalability, beam quality and efficiency.
Examples of Photonics in Military & Defense / Aerospace
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Composites: much used, but hard to understand
Composites are extremely strong and light materials because they are a combination of polymers, and glass or carbon fibers (which give the material greater strength). Composites are used in a whole range of applications: in aircraft (for example in the mechanics of the wing flaps and in fact in 40% of all of the aircraft’s components), as the base material for carbon-framed bikes, in Formula 1 racing cars (about 85% of a Formula I car is made from composite material), for the blades on wind turbines, in pressure vessels for storing gas, in prostheses, boats, electric cars – and so much more. How to ‘feel pain’ in materials