News story

Light protection technology project launched

The Ministry of Defence has teamed up with Qioptiq to develop techniques to protect against 'white light' dazzle.

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Three lasers being blocked by an optically addressable light valve [Picture: Crown copyright]
An optically addressable light valve blocking the light from 3 lasers

MOD and Qioptiq, an Excelitas Technologies company, are working together to protect against dazzle caused by ‘white light’ sources such as sunlight or headlamps, and lasers.

Traditional laser protection techniques do not block out this type of white light and can leave operators, pilots and drivers vulnerable to the blinding effect of broadband radiation.

MOD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has signed a licence agreement with global photonics company Qioptiq to commercialise the technology for use across its markets.

The agreement will allow the company access to Dstl’s patented technology, the optically addressable light valve (OALV), which was invented by Dstl scientist Chris Burgess.

The OALV uses a layer of liquid crystal to effectively block sources of glare and dazzle without affecting the remaining field of vision, which then allows sensors to remain effective whilst being ‘dazzled’. This was developed as part of Dstl’s electro-optic protection measures research programme, which addresses the rising laser threat to aircrew and sensors.

Jim Ashe at Dstl’s technology transfer company Ploughshare Innovations said:

It’s very encouraging to see capability developed from government research which can enable industry to provide protection against intense light sources, such as from laser dazzle and sun-strike.

Qioptiq will now be considering other situations where the OALV could have benefit, in both military and civilian environments, including potential uses in medical work.

Steve Rickard, a business and product development manager at Qioptiq, added:

The potential integration of Dstl’s technology into our product portfolio presents an exciting development that we may not otherwise have achieved so readily.

As part of the license agreement, Dstl will continue to provide technical support to Qioptiq as it looks to integrate the OALV technology.

Published 27 February 2014