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Cost-effective production of infrared lenses
Date:8/8/2012

Rain pelts down on the roof of the car; it is difficult to make out anything in the pitch dark. Suddenly, a deer runs out of the forest and onto the road, but the driver cannot respond in time. When it comes to such dangerous situations, micro-bolometers constitute one way of "extending" the human eye and defusing such dangerous situations. They detect infrared rays in other words, the heat emitted by a living creature and in case of danger, warn the driver through an acoustic signal or a warning light. At about 2,000 euros, these devices are still quite expensive and are only being used in luxury-class vehicles.

Production costs drop by over 70 percent

Part for part, these devices should be getting more affordable. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM in Freiburg are working on the infrared lenses that are in the cameras. "We have developed a production process for lenses that enables us to lower the costs of these components by more than 70 percent. Thus the prize for the micro-bolometer could be reduced," says Dr. Helen Mller, scientist at IWM. Normally, the lenses are made out of crystalline materials like germanium, zinc selenide or zinc sulfide. The problem is that these materials are very expensive and can only be processed mechanically it takes grinding, polishing or diamond turning to shape them into the correctly. Obviously this involves high processing costs. "Instead of crystalline materials, we use the amorphous chalcogenide glass. Its softening temperature that is, the temperature at which it can be formed is low. Therefore, we can form it using non-isothermic hot stamping," says Mller. This process is similar to making waffles on a waffle iron. The researchers place the chalcogenide glass between two pressing tools which determine the form of the required lenses. Then, it is heated and formed between both pressing tools the "waffle iron" is clamped together. After a few minutes,
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Contact: Dr. Helen Mller
helen.mueller@iwm.fraunhofer.de
49-761-514-2350
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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