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NC State, UNC-Chapel Hill infrared camera project funded by National Science Foundation

In this photo, the top of the Belltower is framed by fall foliage.

Engineers, scientists and educators at NC State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are collaborating to develop a new SWIR (short-wave infrared) light camera and recruit the next generation of engineers.

The collaborative research project, FuSe: Polymer SWIR Photodiodes for Focal Plane Arraysis funded by the National Science Foundation. The $1.88 million in funding over three years includes money from the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022.

The project addresses the need for better cameras that can improve visibility, at a lower cost. SWIR light has a wavelength range from 1.0 to 2.5 µm. While it is not visible to the human eye, SWIR light offers several advantages over visible light for imaging applications. Because of its longer wavelength compared to visible light, SWIR light is not scattered by smoke particles or water moisture. Consequently, under foggy or severe weather conditions, SWIR imaging can significantly improve visibility, making SWIR cameras invaluable for autonomous driving.

Currently, indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs) sensors are used for this application, and they are exceedingly expensive. The goal of this project is to replace InGaAs with polymer sensors. The success of this program will substantially reduce the cost of these cameras and accelerate the commercialization of SWIR cameras for consumer applications. Education and workforce development efforts will recruit, mentor and train a diverse group of 10 university and 10 community college FuSe Fellows in research labs and provide meaningful career explorations, classroom Zoom visits and campus lab tours for 1,000 rural, early-college high school students. This project will be a collaboration between an engineering/physics and education team from NC State and a chemistry team at UNC-Chapel Hill. 

The principal investigators (PIs) for this project are:

  • Franky So, Walter and Ida Freeman Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at NC State
  • Veena Misra, MC Dean Distinguished University Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at NC State
  • Kenan Gundogdu, professor of physics at NC State
  • Margaret Blanchard, Alumni Association Distinguished Graduate Professor of Science Education at NC State
  • Wei You, chair and professor of chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill.