Successful completion of this SBIR project will result in the development of a InAlAs-InGaAs Photomultiplier Chip with performance that far exceeds the state-of-the-art, particularly with respect to single photon sensitivity, dark count rate, timing resolution, and dynamic range. Furthermore, this will be achievable using only modest cooling (200 K operation anticipated), greatly reducing size, weight, and power. We envision a quadrant detector module suitable for both tracking and long range optical communications at 1550 nm. This receiver can be used for both ground based and space based platforms, enabling a broad network of optical communications links to be developed. In addition to deep space optical communications, the technology has immediate application to a range of NASA applications, including laser ranging (ladar, altimetry, mapping) and remote sensing (lidar).] Beyond the immediate scope of the proposed Phase I-Phase II project include imaging applications using either a single SPAD element per imaging pixel as well as a small SPAD array (array-of-arrays) per imaging pixel. Imaging arrays can greatly enhance remote sensing applications, including flash ladar for hazard warning, navigation, and docking.
Beyond NASA specific commercial applications, a wide range of commercial applications are directly enabled. These include free space optical communications, including satellite data links and military communications applications, as well as quantum secure communications and quantum computing. Remote sensing is a particularly attractive commercial application, given the compatibility with eye-safe lasers. Autonomous vehicles are expected to rapidly gain market share, due in large part to the availability of sensors such as lidar. Currently, many of these lidar systems operate at wavelengths of 800 -- 1100 nm, which are not considered eye-safe. This means that these systems must use attenuated laser beams to prevent eye damage, and therefore have range, spatial resolution, and frame rate limitations. Extending these systems to eyes-safe wavelengths has the potential to greatly improve range, spatial resolution and frame rate. While the barrier to entry into the automobile market is significant, military and aviation markets will have a lower barrier to entry and are likely to favor the price/performance ratio for long range, eye-safe lidar sensors.