N233-120 TITLE: Transparent and Back-Lit Liquid-Crystal Displays for Lensless Computational Imaging
OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Microelectronics;Trusted AI and Autonomy
The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.
OBJECTIVE: Research, develop, and fabricate micro-scale, high-resolution, high-refresh rate liquid-crystal-on-silicon (LCoS) micro-displays.
DESCRIPTION: The Office of Naval Research (ONR) is currently developing a range of lensless, optical-computing devices for applications in the areas of computer vision and computational photography. To create the next-generation versions of these devices, we are seeking proposals aimed at the design and fabrication of custom liquid-crystal micro-displays. We are interested in micro-scale, high-resolution liquid-crystal displays, with both transparent and back-lit versions under consideration under this SBIR topic. These displays would likely be similar to what is found in commercial virtual-reality headsets and augmented-reality headsets.
The micro-displays we need have several requirements not found in existing commercial offerings. Some additional research is hence needed. The micro-displays must be small (20 millimeter diagonal length or less) and high resolution (2048x1080 pixels or higher). The micro-displays should be grayscale-only and capable of supporting and implementing 8-bit grayscale values with the option to potentially support 16-bit values. A low response time (about 3 milliseconds or lower), and hence high frame rate (240 frames per second or higher), is needed to perform sensing and processing tasks at a level needed for realizing certain autonomy capabilities. The micro-displays should also come in back-lit and non-back-lit, transparent variations. In the latter case, the display should be made as transparent as possible so that light can travel through the liquid-crystal layer and be predominantly attenuated by the point-spread functions that will be shown on them. No strongly-occluding materials can be present behind the liquid-crystal layer for the transparent version of the display. Any electronics should be located at the periphery of the displays and incorporated into the baffling. Both the back-lit and non-back-lit transparent displays should interface with printed-circuit driver boards that will be developed and fabricated by the awardee as part of this SBIR topic.
We seek the design and fabrication of two displays. One display is assumed to be transparent and will not have a built-in backlight. The other will have a built-in backlight. Both displays should possess the following traits:
Technical challenges: Ideally, the displays should be as low power as possible. The displays may be used for applications in harsh environments not currently considered by the acquisition program. A path forward for high-temperature operating conditions (greater than 70 degrees Celsius) should be established in the design stage, even if it is not implemented in the prototypes. The displays will not be used in environments where direct contact with water is expected. They will also not be used in environments with strong background radiation present.
Supporting incredibly high frame rates will not be feasible with present HDMI standards. Pre-buffering many image frames may not always be an option. The displays will hence, practically, be limited to the rates and resolution supported by the current HMDI 2.1/2.1a standard, which will be approximately 240 frames per second, during evaluation by the Navy. The designed displays will eventually be integrated with a custom application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) chip to drive them at the highest frame rate offered by either a multi-lane MIPI connection or an LVDS connection. Potential performers should therefore advertise if their proposed solution can be run at higher frame rates and are limited only by the bandwidth offered by HDMI.
PHASE I: Produce a liquid crystal display design that satisfies the above criteria. Outline testing and evaluation criteria. If the design cannot meet the design objectives an analysis or discussion of the potential should be included in the Phase I report. Modeling, simulation, or comparison to similar developments should be used to justify design decisions.
PHASE II: Fabricate two to three prototype systems for evaluation. These systems should include both the displays and any circuit boards and other components needed to drive them. The prototype demonstration should achieve or show potential for meeting the design requirements. Perform detailed analysis on ruggedness and compatibility with Navy unmanned underwater vehicle handling, storage, and environmental operating conditions. Testing will be conducted by both the performer and by Navy personnel. Cost effectiveness and manufacturability feasibility should be addressed as part of the prototype test and evaluation. The appropriate acquisition program office will be consulted for any additional evaluation metrics needed for Phase III.
PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Build an advanced liquid crystal display prototype that meets appropriate technology readiness level (TRL) metrics set by the acquisition program office. Support the Navy for test and validation of the system for certified Navy use. Explore the potential to transfer the technology for commercial use. Commercial applications might include visual detection and tracking systems, low-power processing for commercial UxV systems, and large-scale supercomputing resources. Develop manufacturing plans to facilitate transition to a program of record.
KEYWORDS: Liquid-Crystal Display, Liquid Crystal on Silicon Display, Optical Processing, Machine Learning, Computer Vision, Computational Photography
** TOPIC NOTICE **
The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the Navy Topics in the DoD 23.3 SBIR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at www.defensesbirsttr.mil/SBIR-STTR/Opportunities/#announcements for any updates.
The DoD issued its Navy 23.3 SBIR Topics pre-release on August 23, 2023 which opens to receive proposals on September 20, 2023, and closes October 18, 2023 (12:00pm ET).
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