Aqua-Ionic Detector
Navy SBIR FY2008.2

Sol No.: Navy SBIR FY2008.2
Topic No.: N08-129
Topic Title: Aqua-Ionic Detector
Proposal No.: N082-129-0036
Firm: Physical Optics Corporation
Applied Technologies Division
20600 Gramercy Place, Bldg.100
Torrance, California 90501
Contact: Michael Reznikov
Phone: (310) 320-3088
Web Site:
Abstract: The U.S. Navy is seeking a compact MEMS-based sensor system to detect and classify surface or subsurface bodies in coastal shallow waters, bays, port areas, and waterways, on the basis of weak electromagnetic (EM) signals or EM field deviations. Available technology is limited to acoustic detectors and magnetometers. To address the Navy need for an underwater EM field detector, Physical Optics Corporation (POC) proposes to develop a new Aqua-Ionic Detector (AID) based on the nonlinear conductivity of solid electrolytes. In contrast to its bio-prototype, the shark, the proposed detector will detect the gradient of an ionic charge even in a static position. The AID will be a low-observable underwater sensor, sensitive to low-frequency distortions of EM fields, meeting the Navy need to detect small and slow moving objects in the cluttered environment of littoral waters. It will include an on-chip array of microfluidic sensor cells, electronics, battery pack, and transceiver for networking the sensor grid nodes. In Phase I, POC will demonstrate the feasibility of the AID approach by fabricating and testing a conceptual prototype. In Phase II, POC plans to develop a series of device prototypes to iteratively improve performance and demonstrate the technology in a realistic tactical environment.
Benefits: The AID technology will be useful for medical non-contact diagnostics, commercial undersea surveying, security, and monitoring of underwater equipment. It also can detect corrosion in underwater pipelines and drilling platforms, because the electrochemical process will be accompanied by electric currents in the surrounding water. Military applications of the AID system will include anti-submarine warfare distributed sensor networks, mine detection, and counter-terrorism security systems.