For planetary sciences there is a pressing need for more sensitive infrared detectors that operate in the 2 5 micron wavelength band. These detectors can be used with cavity enhanced laser and Raman spectrometers for trace gas detection and chemical analysis. Currently NASA is having to purchase detectors from foreign sources. This program will establish a US source of high performance detectors. In addition, the detectors operate at temperatures that can be reached using only thermo-electric coolers, greatly expanding the platform types, and portability of where these detectors can be utilized. Examples of NASA programs that could take advantage of this detector technology include PICASSO and MatISSE.
The high performance IR detector can be used in a variety of high sensitivity gas sensors and spectroscopic applications, and hence addresses multiple markets. The detector's selectivity, sensitivity and rapid response time make this an ideal detector for instruments sensing a wide variety of trace gases, for land-based, space based, and airborne measurements. Examples of trace gas sensing applications include vapors from solvents used in manufacturing, emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, and the release of chemical weapons. The important areas of public application include homeland security, detection of chemical and biological weapons, industrial process control, and medical diagnostics through breath testing. Another potential market for this technology is environmental pollution monitoring of methane and carbon dioxide.