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Materion’s new filter array technology enables more imaging data and higher image resolution in a smaller package


On February 11, 2013, a NASA Atlas V rocket carrying the Landsat Data Continuity Mission spacecraft roared off the launch pad in California carrying filters built by Materion Barr Precision Optics & Thin Film Coatings. The filters included sets of nine visible and near infrared-band assembled arrays that will allow scientists to image features such as sedimentation in rivers, mineral deposits, soil moisture and vegetation. Fourteen of the precisely matched assemblies were mounted on the Operational Land Imager on the satellite.

Scientific satellites like the Landsat are just one end market for Materion Barr, which is recognized globally as a leading designer and manufacturer of precision optical filters. Other applications include weather and mapping satellites, commercial color matching systems and defense.

Materion Barr is continuously enhancing its multispectral filter array technology, which permits the precise positioning and sizing of multiple filters in a single array. These very fine filters may be as small as a few tens of microns, and a single array may have as many as 137 multispectral filters.

“The increased number of spectral bands allows the device to be smaller and compatible with higher-resolution (smaller pixels) detector arrays,” explains Materion Barr’s Kevin Downing, Director, Marketing & Business Development, Defense & Space, Science and Astronomy. “They can be designed and built for use with any focal plane array detector, from ultraviolet to long wave infrared wavelengths.”

Materion Barr developed the enhanced microarrays primarily in response to requests from NASA, the Department of Defense and defense contractors for more sensor systems and higherresolution images in a smaller, more rugged package. 

These new microarrays are incredibly powerful, says Downing. “They can capture many more different types of data and provide higher-resolution images while taking up very little space.” The technology could allow a reconnaissance satellite with one of these arrays to be able to read a 25 cent coin in a man’s hand at the same time it identifies the type of gases being emitted by a nearby factory.

Materion expects the multispectral array business to grow at an annual rate in excess of 20%. “And we believe this technology has the potential to penetrate many other applications that have yet to be identified,” says Downing.