DARPA’s EXTREME Optics and Imaging Program to Enable New Designs for Optics and Imagers

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November 21, 2016 | Originally published by Date Line: November 21 on

DARPA seeks engineered optical materials unconstrained by “laws” of classical optics to develop vastly smaller, lighter, and more capable devices for advanced imaging applications.

Developers of imaging systems have long been beholden to certain rules of optics designs so well established and seemingly immutable as to be treated as virtual “laws” of physics. One widely considered pillar of optical design, for example, is that imaging systems must be built from a series of complex and precisely manufactured optical elements arranged linearly. The result of such assumptions is that certain high-performance imagery devices inevitably end up being large and heavy, composed of dozens or more optical elements. DARPA’s EXTREME Optics and Imaging (EXTREME) program aims to break from that well-worn paradigm by introducing engineered optical materials (EnMats) and associated design tools for creating innovative optical systems with improved performance, new functionality, and drastically reduced size and weight.

A special notice was issued today announcing the EXTREME Proposers Day on September 1, 2016, via webcast to familiarize potential proposers with the goals of the program. A Broad Agency Announcement solicitation is available on FedBizOpps here: http://go.usa.gov/xDeT9.

“We’ve seen significant technical advances in recent years in the communities of optical system design, materials science and fabrication, and multiscale modeling and optimization,” said Predrag Milojkovic, DARPA program manager. “EXTREME seeks to capitalize on this momentum by uniting these separate communities to revolutionize optics and imaging as we know it.”

To achieve its goal, EXTREME is focused on developing new EnMats—both two-dimensional metasurfaces as well as 3-D volumetric optics and holograms—that manipulate light in ways beyond classical rules of reflection and refraction. EXTREME also will address multiscale modelling to enable design and optimization of EnMats across vastly different scales, from nanometer to centimeter, for example.