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Air Force Grant Funds Missile Defense Technology

Prof. Xuejun Lu Receives $750K for Research

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Assoc. Prof. Xuejun Lu, standing, works with his graduate student on a high-powered laser in the lab.

By Edwin L. Aguirre

Electrical and computer engineering Assoc. Prof. Xuejun Lu has been awarded a $750,000 grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to develop an electrically tunable polarimetric infrared focal plane array (IRFPA) for adaptive infrared sensing and imaging.

“Polarimetric infrared imaging systems are of great importance for numerous civilian and defense applications, including missile defense, space surveillance and situational awareness, unmanned aerial vehicles, remote sensing, environmental monitoring and materials analysis,” says Lu, who is the principal investigator for the project.

For example, in anti-ballistic missile defense, an advanced IRFPA and sensor system can analyze the infrared emission from a target missile and, based on the polarization of its radiation, the system can distinguish the missile from background clutter and determine its material, surface and geometric properties and orientation with respect to the sensor.

Lu says current IRFPAs use external polarizers based on a motorized mechanical turning mechanism.

“These mechanical polarizers are too slow in responding,” he explains. “Our research aims to create a new type of electrically switchable plasmonic polarizer that operates at much higher speed.”

Lu’s team includes graduate students Yingjie Zhang and Yao Zhai as well as postdoctoral researcher Puminun Vasinajindakaw.

A resident of Chelmsford, Lu obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Texas, Austin, in 2001 and joined UMass Lowell’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2003.