Metamaterial optics provide dramatic reductions in size and weight compared with traditional optics. Nanohmics is developing a low-SWaP imaging spectropolarimeter using an ultrathin, microfabricated multifunction meta-optic. Because of their extremely low size and mass, these low-aberration optics will be ideal for sensors and imagers in SWaP-constrained vehicles, such as for suborbital Earth science measurements including atmospheric aerosol absorption and scattering. The proposed imaging spectropolarimeter combines a single multifunction meta-optic with a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) focal plane array. The team recently demonstrated a multifunction meta-optic that focuses light and simultaneously analyzes both spectrum and polarization state, including all 4 Stokes parameters, degree of linear polarization (DoLP), angle of linear polarization (AoLP), and other parameters used by NASA to study light scattering in the atmosphere. Phase I will demonstrate the feasibility of low-SWaP, high-performance suborbital sensors based on multifunction meta-optics by fabricating a breadboard imaging spectropolarimeter using a single meta-optic. Laboratory testing will advance the breadboard to TRL 4. The team will build upon recently developed design, simulation, and fabrication methods. Phase II will include laboratory and airborne testing of a TRL 5 prototype and will extend operating spectral band from near-infrared (NIR) to include visible (VIS). The team will plan for low-cost suborbital monitoring within NASA’s Earth Science Division (ESD) and Science Mission Directorate (SMD). Longer term, imaging spectropolarimeters can leverage multifunction meta-optics in all spectral bands, making them valuable for NASA imaging and monitoring missions – both suborbital and in space – and applications in the military, industrial, energy, medical, and consumer sectors. Standard microfabrication techniques will keep costs low and accelerate commercialization.
The low-SWaP imaging spectropolarimeter will provide low-cost suborbital monitoring for NASA ESD and SMD, including Earth science atmospheric composition monitoring. Mounted on airborne and other suborbital vehicles, it can provide measurements of spectrally resolved atmospheric aerosol absorption and scattering – initially in the NIR spectral band but extensible to VIS, mid-wave infrared (MWIR), and other spectral bands – to provide data for satellite validation and finer scale process studies made possible by increased spatial resolution.
The advanced capabilities and low SWaP of sensors based on multifunction meta-optics will make them valuable for a wide variety of applications and customers, including the military, industrial, energy, medical, and consumer sectors. With size and mass less than 10% of that of existing spectropolarimeters, they will be suitable for observation satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).