Current Projects

Catalyst: Compact and Robust 3-D Acceleration Measurement with Optically Levitated Micro-Spheres
Montana State University Office of Technology Transfer
Funds to MSU Spectrum Lab $19,858.19
MSU PI: Dr. David Atherton

This proposal describes a method for 3-D acceleration measurement with optically levitated micro-spheres in vacuum. Applications for sensitive accelerometers include: inertial navigation, seismology, geodesy, petroleum and mineral prospecting, geophysical surveys and metrology.  Optically levitated and cooled dielectric micro-spheres in high vacuum show great promise as accelerometers. By eliminating the need to tether the spheres to a solid substrate, excellent environmental decoupling is achieved. The force sensitivity for this scheme is limited by the ability to measure the amplitude and position of the oscillator in a 3-D space.  We believe this technology is an improvement over the current state-of-the-art atom interferometer accelerometers by at least an order of magnitude in sensitivity. In addition, our technology performs 3-D measurements, whereas the current state-of-the-art accelerometers perform measurements along a single axis. 

110 GHz Spectrum and Direction Finding Receiver
Sponsor: S2 Corporation
Federal Sponsor: Office of Naval Research
Funds to Spectrum Lab $767,857.00
PI: Dr. Zeb Barber

Summary:  This is a joint proposal to the Office of Naval Research BAA 14-006 with several industry, government, and university partners.  The lead performer on the effort is BAE Systems, however MSU will perform as a subcontractor to S2 Corporation. 

Hyperspectral Imaging using Arrays of Liquid Crystal Filled Optical Microcavities
Montana Board of Research and Commercialization Technology Grant
Funds to MSU Spectrum Lab $ 96,000.00
MSU PI: Dr. Russell Barbour & Dr. Zeb Barber

The Spectrum Lab at Montana State University (MSU-SL) proposes to design, build and test a revolutionary new hyperspectral imaging system that will have significant impact on many industries in Montana. The project will focus on designing, fabricating and testing microscopic concave mirrors that are a key component of the new imaging system. The motivation for this project is to develop a robust and high performance-to-cost ratio spectral imaging system for use in the biomedical field (specifically for early detection of skin cancer, which has a high incidence rate in Montana). However, the spectral imaging technology also applies to geographical imaging, vegetation species identification, analyzing mineral and chemical specimens, and atmospheric imaging from satellites or aerial platforms such as UAVs.

Liquid Crystal Arrayed Microcavities for Broad Spectrum Optical Property Characterization
Sponsor: Airforce Phase 1 STTR proposal
Funds to MSU Spectrum Lab $75,149.00
PI: Dr. Russell Barbour

 The objective of this proposal is to demonstrate the feasibility of a flexible, low-cost, integrated and sensitive broad spectrum optical property characterization system. We propose a hyperspectral imager designed for operation in the 300nm – 2000nm spectral region with state-of-the-art spectral and spatial resolution through the use of a high density array of high finesse (F = 1000) tunable microcavity filters.  The system combines a high performance-cost ratio, rugged design for field use, compact, light and flexible design for a wide variety of broad spectrum optical property characterization measurements. The system will be capable of many different measurement geometries including multiplexed confocal detection, surface contact detection and analyzing the absorption spectra of liquids and gases. Additionally, the system will be highly miniaturized, allowing spectral and spatial data collection and imaging in difficult to reach locations, e.g. endoscope applications.

Application of Phase Noise Discrimination to Electronic Warfare
Prime Contractor: S2 Corporation
Period of Performance: 6 months + Potential 6 month option
Funds to MSU Spectrum Lab: $6,110
MSU PI: Dr. Zeb Barber



This project seeks to apply the high bandwidth spatial-spectral sensing technology developed by S2 Corporation and MSU Spectrum Lab to identification of RF emitters and platforms based on spectral and spectral phase signatures of their RF emissions.  MSU’s contribution is to bring expertise in the capabilities of the spatial-spectral sensing technology to develop measurement methods to extract RF emitter signatures from their emissions.  This will include consultation on the design of hardware and algorithms.


Air Force Phase I SBIR
Prime Contractor: Bridger Photonics
Duration: 9 months
Total Contract: $150k
Contract to MSU Spectrum Lab: $50k
MSU PI: Dr. Zeb Barber



This Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase I project will investigate, develop, and determine the feasibility of using a coherent FMCW ladar measurement system and tomographic methods to provide characterization of atmospheric turbulence profiles.  By coherently tracking a small array of point targets from multiple receivers in a known geometry, the transverse and longitudinal structure of refractive index fluctuations can be estimated along several intersecting paths.  These integrated path measurements can be combined to form an incoherent or coherent tomographic reconstruction of the atmospheric turbulence.  The use of high range resolution FMCW chirped ladar allows point targets to be identified and isolated by their range even when individual targets cannot be optically resolved in the transverse dimension due to broadening by strong optical turbulence.  The use of passive retro-reflecting targets or possibly laser guide stars illuminating on a diffuse, opaque target makes the technique well suited to characterization of down-looking and slant-path turbulence profiles from an airborne platform. The proposed technique uses methods and ideas from Synthetic Aperture Ladar (SAL) imaging.  The Phase I work will provide algorithmic and experimental proof-of-concept demonstrations and analysis to determine the feasibility of a long-range atmospheric turbulence characterization system.


High Dynamic Range Nonlinear Optical Signal Frequency Conversion
Montana Board of Research and Commercialization Technology Grant
Duration: 12 months
Total MBRCT Funds: $129k
PI: Dr. Zeb Barber
Sub-contractor: AdvR Inc.



The Spectrum Lab at Montana State University (MSU-SL) and AdvR Inc. of Bozeman, MT propose to investigate, design, and test improvements to AdvR’s nonlinear optical (NLO) quasi phase matched (QPM) crystal waveguides for the application of high dynamic range optical frequency conversion. The NLO processes in AdvR’s waveguide devices will be investigated theoretically and tested experimentally to reduce signal distortions created in the nonlinear conversion process to guide improvements in the design.  The proposed research activities include: physics based modeling of the nonlinear processes in QPM crystal waveguides to identify the sources of distortion in the frequency conversion process and design methods to mitigate them, construction and characterization of a series of test waveguides to validate the model, using the model to hone in on the optimal design solution for high dynamic range NLO frequency conversion, and final design and construction of a fiber pigtailed device for use in MSU-SL’s SSH signal cueing receiver. The goal will be to produce a fiber pigtailed NLO waveguide capable device of converting a two-tone modulated optical signal in the fiber optics communications band (~1550 nm) to the optical processing wavelength in Tm:YAG at ~794 nm while retaining >60 dB of two-tone spur-free dynamic range (SFDR) with 10 mW converted output power.  This represents an increase by a factor of ten in SFDR over the current method of modulating at 794 nm.

Ultra-wideband signal test system
Defense University Research Infrastructure Program (DURIP)
Duration: 12 months
Funds to MSU Spectrum Lab: $198k
PI: Prof. Babbitt



This is an equipment grant. The instrumentation requested in the current proposal enhances our test capabilities. The requested instrumentation package has two components.

  1. Arbitrary Waveform Generation up to 5GHz bandwidth
  2. Signal Generator up to 40 GHz.

The combination of these two systems will be used to produce complex test signals with up to 10 GHz bandwidth tunable from 0-40 GHz.  These signals are needed to more fully exercise and test our S2 systems.


Compact Compressive Laser Ranging System
Montana Board of Research and Commercialization Technology Grant
Duration: 12 months
MBRCT Funds to MSU Spectrum Lab: $139k
PI: Dr. Zeb Barber



The general objective of this proposed Montana Board of Research of Commercialization and Technology research project is to develop an innovative compact and versatile laser ranging system based on the compressive laser ranging technique [1] invented at Montana State University-Spectrum Lab.

The research objective of this proposal is to apply the methods of compressive sensing (CS) to go beyond current hardware and data communication constraints to enable a new class of high precision one-dimensional (1D) time-of-flight laser ranging and three-dimensional (3D) laser imaging sensors. The project advances a novel compressive sensing approach to laser ranging that employs high bandwidth modulation and low bandwidth detection while enabling multi-target high precision (sub-cm) ranging over large range windows. This mixed-signal approach combines the advantages of high speed digital modulation with the precision of low bandwidth analog electronics and digitization. By removing the requirement of high bandwidth detection for high resolution range measurements, the compressive laser ranging (CLR) approach benefits from reductions of size, weight, and power as well as the issues of excess noise, scaling, high data-rates, and high data loads associated with high bandwidth detection and digitization.


Photonics Enabled Extreme Bandwidth Wireless Communications Receiver
Prime Contractor: S2 Corporation
Time Period: 2 years
Funds to MSU Spectrum Lab: $150k
PI: Dr. Zeb Barber



S2 Corporation (S2C) in Bozeman, MT, with our university collaborators and proposed subcontractor at Montana State University (MSU), propose a research and develop program on an innovative photonics enabled extreme bandwidth wireless communications receiver concept.  The unique hardware solution the extreme bandwidth analyzer / correlator (EBAC) has the capability of efficiently correlating extremely large time-bandwidth RF/MMW signals in real-time. The resulting S2H Transmitted/Augmented Reference Communications (STARC) architecture leverages the large processing gain provided by the EBAC to provide benefits including: very high immunity to interference, multipath, path dispersion; secure and covert communications through the use of noise-like, very low power spectral density signals; and elimination of synchronization between transmitter and receiver. The photonic system behind the technology is referred to as spatial spectral holography (S2H), which natively operates on optical signals in the Fourier domain with large instantaneous bandwidth and narrow frequency resolution [1-17].  The Phase 1 effort provided proof of concept demonstrations on existing S2 EBAC hardware and allowed the identification of required hardware improvements, and refinement of the STARC architecture including power efficient bit encoding concepts and potential for high bit rate >100 Mbs communications.  The Phase II effort proposed here will refine this STARC architecture including transmitter and backend hardware and software development to enable full scale prototype communication demonstrations.  


Figure 1 High level concept of the STARC concept, as shown with one-way communications of noise waveforms from a transmitter to an S2 EBAC based receiver.  Transmitted spread spectrum waveforms are detected by the S2 EBAC receiver.


Efficient Photonic Computational Engine for Selection and Filtering
Prime Contractor: S2 Corporation
Duration: 12 Months
Funds to MSU Spectrum Lab: $124k
PI: Dr. Zeb Barber




Spatial-Spectral Holographic Rainbow Spectrometer for Ultra-Wideband Cueing Receiver
BAA Number: ONR BAA 12-008
Agency Name: Office of Naval Research
Submission Due Date: June 8, 2012 via
Prime Offerer: Spectrum Lab, Montana State University-Bozeman
Period of Performance: October 2012 – February, 2014
Funds to Spectrum Lab: $750k
PI: Prof. Wm. Randall Babbitt



The spatial-spectral holographic (SSH) rainbow spectrometer (RS) provides spectral channelization of the radio frequency (RF) and microwave (MW) signals (in bands from 1-

110 GHz) with fine spectral resolution (sub-MHz), which can be configured (and reconfigured on the fly) to perform fully adaptable signal channelization, versatile multi-channel spectral cueing, broadband spectral analysis with angle-of-arrival discrimination, and multi-band monitoring. The SSH RS can have over 1000 variable-bandwidth, reconfigurable signal channels, each with variable band and multi-band monitoring capabilities. Each channel can be configured to perform very fine (less than 1 MHz) spectrum analysis, determine angle-of-arrival with high resolution (sub-degree), or act as a cueing device with microsecond latency. The full set of channels can be reprogrammed in timescales on the order of 150 msec, with each channel having a new center frequency and bandwidth or being set-up for multi-band monitoring. An SSH RS system could eventually have well over 1000 channels and operate in bands anywhere in the 1-110 GHz frequency range. The currently proposed SSH RS system will have 1000 channels and operate in any 10 GHz band tunable from 10-40 GHz.

The core of the proposed approach is the SSH material, which when cooled to cryogenic temperatures (~4K) has the natural ability to record and store a massive amount of spatial and spectral information. SSH materials exist with well over 100 GHz in bandwidth with resolutions at tens of kHz. In a sugar-cube-sized volume, an SSH material could readily store a 1000 x 1000 spatial images, thus space-time-bandwidth products exceeding 1012 are achievable with SSH technology. These spectral and spatial storage capabilities will be exploited to record 1000 high performance spatial-spectral selective channels in the SSH material. The proposed SSH RS addresses naval electronic warfare support (ES) needs in providing actionable and immediate threat recognition of electromagnetic (EM) emitters for immediate avoidance, targeting, and cueing decisions. The SSH RS provides continuous monitoring and cueing of all critical portions of the RF/MW spectrum. The additional capability to simultaneously distinguish and separate EM emitter signals by both spectrum and angle-of-arrival enables the SSH RS to quickly and accurately classify and identify emitters. Low latency enables cueing of additional electronics for finer classification and identification.



Synthetic Aperture Ladar Imaging and Atmospheric Turbulence
AFOSR Young Investigator Program
Duration: 3 years
Funds to MSU Spectrum Lab: $360k
PI: Dr. Zeb Barber



The proposed research project is to investigate high resolution synthetic aperture ladar (SAL) imaging using as a tool the actively linearized ultra-broadband chirped laser sources developed by MSU-Spectrum Lab and Bridger Photonics.  The main thrust of the research is to experimentally and theoretically investigate the influence atmospheric turbulence has on SAL.  Previous experimental results have shown that atmospheric turbulence makes image formation using simple methods that work on in lab demonstrations impossible.  This work is related to work Spectrum Lab has performed in conjunction with Bridger Photonics




Past Projects

    • With Bridger Photonics - Multiple awards in High Resolution Ladar, Optical remote sensing and chemical detection and Innoavative ultrafast laser development
    • TST - Broadband Analog to Digital Conversion and Spectral Analysis using Spatial-Spectral Holography
    • ONR - Exploiting Non-Traditional Signals Using A Photonics Based Signal Processor
    • Direct Digital Conversion of diverse signals on microwave carriers
    • Montana Board of Research and Commercialization Tech. (MBRCT) - III