Commercial applications applicable to NASA include remote chemical sensing and IR imaging arrays for deployment on remote vehicles. The LWIR data is valuable for object discrimination when tracking targets in space or performing astronomical observations. The Type-II superlattice developed here operates at ambient temperatures or under passive cooling, allowing for the possible replacement of extrinsic Si-based photodetectors which require more cumbersome cryogenic cooling. This in turn reduces the weight and volume overhead required for supporting systems on space-based or portable platforms. Chemical plumes could be analyzed and identified based on their infrared absorption signatures. Thermal imagers can be applied to geologic and atmospheric studies, for either earth based or extraterrestrial projects. Data on weather patterns or geothermal activity could then be collected. At these long wavelengths objects can also be spotted through fog or dust, which would normally obscure visible light wavelengths.
Non-NASA Commercial Applications includes pollution monitoring, nondestructive testing, medical diagnostics, and target tacking. For civilian medical use thermal imaging can be applied to diagnosing certain cancers based on temperature anomalies at the skin surface. Search and rescue operations are also aided with this technology in that the ability to detect heat sources provides a great and immediate visual contrast when viewing vast areas of land or seascape. Similarly military and defense can also benefit from this technology. Standard night-vision systems rely on image intensifiers which merely amplify the available visible light for the user. Camouflaging can still fool these types of vision systems. However, thermal imaging that LWIR arrays can provide adds a higher level of capabilities. Potential enemies can more easily be spotted by the heat signature that is emitted by their bodies or recently discharged weapons. Lingering heat patterns can also reveal if a room or vehicle has been recently occupied.