Micro Miniature Rotary Stirling Cryocooler for Compact, Lightweight and Low Power Thermal Imaging Systems Avishai Filis, Zvi Bar Haim, Nachman Pundak, Ramon Broyde
RICOR – Cryogenic & Vacuum Systems, En Harod Ihud 18960, Israel
Novel compact and low power consuming cooled infrared thermal imagers as used in gyro-stabilized payloads of miniature unmanned aerial vehicles, Thermal small arms sights and tactical night vision goggles often rely on integral rotary micro-miniature closed cycle Stirling cryogenic engines.
Development of EPI Antimonides technology and optimization of MCT technology allowed decreasing in order of magnitudes the level of dark current in infrared detectors thus enabling an increase in the optimal focal plane temperature in excess of 95K while keeping the same radiometric performances as achieved at 77K using regular technologies. Maintaining focal plane temperature in the range of 95K to 110K instead of 77K improves the efficiency of Stirling thermodynamic cycle thus enlarging cooling power and enabling the development of a mini micro cooler similar to RICOR’s K562S model which is three times smaller, lighter and more compact than a standard tactical cryocooler like RICOR’s K508 model.
This cooler also features a new type of ball bearings and internal components which were optimized to fit tight bulk constraints and maintain the required life span, while keeping a low level of vibration and noise signature. Further, the functions of management the brushless DC motor and temperature stabilization are delivered by the newly developed high performance sensorless digital controller. By reducing Dewar Detector thermal losses and increasing the focal plane temperature, longer life time operation is expected as was proved with RICOR’s K508 model.
Resulting from this development, the RICOR K562S model cryogenic engine consumes 1.2 – 3.0 WDC while operating in the closed loop mode and maintaining the typical focal plane arrays at 200-100K. This makes it compatible with very compact battery packages allowing further reduction of the overall thermal imager weight thus making it comparable with the compatible uncooled infrared thermal imager relying on a microbolometer detector in terms of power consumption and bulk.
Keywords: Micro Miniature, Cryocooler, Stirling, COP, Deawr, FPA, RICOR.