BOX 1-1

Statement of Task

The NRC will

Consider the fundamental, physical limits to optical and infrared detector technologies with potential military utility, with priority on passive imaging systems. Elucidate trade-offs between sensitivity, spectral bandwidth and diversity, dynamic range, polarization sensitivity, operation temperature, etc. Compare these limits to the near-term state of the art, identifying the scaling laws and hurdles currently restricting progress.

Identify key technologies that may help bridge the gaps within a 10-15 year time frame, the implications for future military applications, and any significant indicators of programs to develop such applications. Speculate on technologies and applications of relevance that are high-impact wild cards or have a low probability of feasible deployment within 15 years. Discuss trends in availability and format scalability and in available cooling technologies.

Consider the pros and cons of implementing each existing or emerging technology, such as noise, dynamic range, processing or bandwidth bottlenecks, hardening, power consumption, weight, etc.

Identify which entities currently lead worldwide funding, research, and development for the key technologies. Highlight the scale, scope, and particular strengths of these R&D efforts, as well as predicted trends, time scales, and commercial drivers.

teract with members of the IC and gain a fuller understanding of the community’s needs relating to detectors. In summary, the key points were the following:

  • Focus on the underlying science, physics, and fundamental limits.

  • Identify where there is room for improvement across the spectrum of possibilities.

  • Cover a breadth of topics rather than delve into great depth for a particular topic.

  • In accordance with the statement of task, emphasize passive sensing; however, comment on developments in active sensing where appropriate.


The committee met three times to receive briefings from government, industry, and university experts in the field of detectors. Mindful of its task, the committee

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