This SBIR Phase II research project will address the need to see beyond ordinary human vision, which is critical to improvements in health care delivery, development of precision agriculture methods, guarantee of front-line responder safety and protection, and processing a safe food supply. Hyperspectral imaging, with its ability to capture hundreds of continuous spectra, delivers a valuable tool that provides enhanced visualization and analysis. Current systems tend to be space- or air-borne, large bulky modules that do not lend themselves to portable or hand-held solutions. This mini hyperspectral imager has at its core a novel MEMS monolithic, Fabry-Perot tunable filter and optical system and will be portable and handy, similar in size to a zoom camera in a cell phone.
This research and development effort will develop a family of innovative miniature hyperspectral imaging systems that potentially can have a significant impact. These systems can alert our modern war fighter and emergency first responders by seeing beyond our vision and identifying terrorist threats. It can safeguard our nation's water and food supplies by utilizing affordable hyperspectral systems to identify e-coli and other bacterial contaminations before they are consumed.
SpectralSightâ€™s Public Outcomes Report - NSF Phase II Award Number 0724494 and Phase IIA – Number 0962291 Public Outcomes Report Overview This report is a summary of our Phase II to Develop a Miniature Hyperspectral Imaging Systems based on a MEMS Fabry-Perot tunable filter. Identification and Significance of Innovation This SBIR Phase II project addressed the need to see beyond ordinary human vision, which is critical to improvements in health care delivery, development of precision agriculture methods, guarantee of front-line responder safety and protection, and processing a safe food supply. Hyperspectral imaging, with its ability to capture hundreds of continuous spectra, delivers a valuable tool that provides enhanced visualization and analysis. Current systems tend to be space- or air-borne, large bulky modules that do not lend themselves to portable or hand-held solutions. Even todayâ€™s compact hyperspectral imaging modules advertising themselves as such are not truly the miniaturized systems that are needed to fully exploit all that hyperspectral imaging can offer. Our mini hyperspectral imager, which has at its core a novel MEMS monolithic, Fabry-Perot tunable filter and optical system, answers this need, proposed to be small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. This enabling technology integrates photonics and electronics to create a robust tunable filter that when combined with an imager or other system provides great value to expanding current sensing capabilities and analytical tools, delivering improved situational information for rapid and informed decision-making. Before we can discuss our accomplishments we need to set the set the stage by revisiting our commercialization strategy. Although the strategy change was not anticipated, we continue to refine our commercialization strategy for the business based on knowledge gained from our design analysis; technology and fabrication developments; customer interactions and application development. Secondly because our supplier failed to deliver a functional MEMS based Fabry-Perot tunable filter due to technical challenges in the development, SpectralSight re-position our development mid –stream to focus on a proprietary MEMS based monolithic Fabry-Perot tunable filter design. The MEMS fabrication work was the focus of our Phase IIA work with a minority university. Summary of Technical Accomplishments The following is a summary of our technical accomplishments: The Phase II project was based on our Phase I work to develop the fundamental requirements and corresponding system requirements and our vision to create a hyperspectral imager that would fit in the palm of our hand. The following are a brief summary of our technical accomplishments: Functional Lenses: First generation lens design and modeling was accomplished and later refined for aerial targets. Since our key precision farming applications changed from aerial to ground based operation with a focus on viticulture; we redesigned, modeled and analyzed the photogrammetry for this application, and selected lenses that were acquired for handheld or ground vehicle operations. Camera Module: Designed and began to implement a custom camera and the electronics, however after further investigation and cost analysis we decided to acquire a camera that meet most of our requirements. This was a much better choice and will ultimately lead to a cost saving when the system is ultimately commercialized. Tunable Filter Driver Electronics: Designed, fabricated, and empirically tested our MEMS Tunable Filter (TF) driver electronics. We went through a 2nd generation refinement of the design and fabrication to miniature and improve the operation. Empirical testing was completed successfully and final testing, awaits a functional TF. Package miniaturization: A miniature package along with the electronics for battery operation was designed. We postponed the final manufacturing to divert the dollars to spend on solving Tunable Filter problems that our supplier was not able to resolve. MEMS Fabry- Perot tunable Filter: We spent many hours doing a failure analysis from the supplierâ€™s work on a MEMS based Tunable Filter. We hired a consultant and together we completed the failure analysis and decided to take a different direction and design a proprietary monolithic tunable filter. Phase IIA work with a minority university: Was awarded a Phase IIA to resolve issues of de-lamination and improve MEMS fabrication processes of the multilayer MEMS tunable filter device. In summary were very pleased with the outcome of the work and resolved all the de-lamination issues with the multilayer MEMS fabrication by substituting materials and using customized fabrication processes. We fabricated the entire monolithic device with a membrane that appears to be intact after release. We were making a second fabrication run when our funding ran out. We were very pleased with the minority university experience, noting the quality work supported by their research, development of customized processes and good weekly collaboration with SpectralSight. We believe we are close to demonstrating the feasibility of this proprietary monolithic tunable filter. This work will enble a family of innovative miniature hyperspectral imaging systems that potentially will have a significant impact on the emerging compact hyperspectral imaging market.