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Founded in 1977, Surface Optics Corporation (SOC) is an employee-owned small business firm specializing in the characterization and exploitation of the optical properties of surfaces. For over twenty years SOC has been conducting measurement services under Government and commercial contracts and developed an extensive data base of optical measurements for a wide variety of materials.

Coupled with the measurements, SOC develops sophisticated suites of analytical software for exploiting the measurement data for a number of practical engineering applications. These tools include optical constant determination, optical phenomenology of composite materials, coatings design, thermal analysis, and visible, infrared and radar signature simulation. In collaboration with research groups worldwide, SOC’s laboratory and analytical tools have garnered an international reputation for excellence.

From this base of laboratory measurement and phenomenology expertise, SOC has developed a wide range of commercial products including instrumentation for laboratory and field optical measurements, Hyperspectral Video Imagers (HSVI) and processors, PC-based engineering software and databases, and surface coating products and services. We also offer our services on a contract basis for engineering projects requiring support in optical phenomenology and measurements, and can develop customized instruments and accessories for specific measurement applications. Our goal is to provide our customers with “One Stop Shopping” for optical measurements, analysis and coatings development.

In 2017, Surface Optics Corporation is commemorating it’s 40th Anniversary and celebrating the contributions we’ve made to optical property characterization technology as well as the achievements of our customers over the last four decades. Surface Optics was incorporated on May 5, 1977, in San Diego, California and is in large part a company born out of the Space Race and the extensive research efforts made by the United States to land a man on the moon.

This achievement was the result of thousands of men and women at many aerospace firms working to solve the intricate technical challenges of Project Apollo. During this time at the Convair Division of General Dynamics, Dr. Ternay Neu and Mr. Dick Dummer developed optical property modeling that served as a backup system to Apollo 11’s primary radar for rendezvous and docking of the Lunar Module with the Command Module.

In 1977, Neu and Dummer took their combined expertise and founded Surface Optics Corporation to provide optical property measurements to the military and aerospace industries. A major contract in those early years (and continuing today) was providing crucial software and measurements for the Ballistic Missile Defense agency’s Optical Signature Code (OSC) program.

SOC produces its first spectral imaging system in 1991. Surface Optics Corporation's research and development team recognized the biggest impediment to spectral imaging technology becoming a useful tool was the inability to acquire and process spectral imagery in real-time. To this end, SOC undertook from the beginning to develop hyperspectral imagers with the ability to collect and process entire hyperspectral data cubes (spatial-spatial-spectral data sets) in real time.

First thermal control coating for space application in 1993. SOC's first contract for a thermal control coating in space applications was for NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. Chandra is sensitive to X-ray sources 100 times fainter than any previous X-ray telescope, enabled by the high angular resolution of its mirrors. Since the Earth's atmosphere absorbs the vast majority of X-rays, they are not detectable from Earth-based telescopes; therefore space-based telescopes are required to make these observations. Chandra's mission is ongoing as of 2017.

New FTIR Hyperspectral Imager is developed by SOC for NASA in 2001. Due to the fact that it did not have a traditional sample compartment, the SOC-400 had the portability to analyse any surface. This answered the need for an instrument that could measure surfaces that cannot be addressed with a lab bench FTIR. The SOC-400 was awarded a NASA Certificate of Recognition for Technical Innovation.

Coatings Lab applies unique coating to NASA's Kepler telescope in 2007. In order to produce a system with enough sensitivity to detect the smaller, Earth-like planets as they pass in front of their host stars, a very high reflectance coating was required for the Kepler primary mirror. A protected and enhanced silver coating was selected to satisfy this need. The protected silver coating formulation was developed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and applied by Surface Optics Corporation using an ion assisted evaporation process.

Coatings Lab designs reflective thermal control coating for the Integrated Sensor Is the Structure (ISIS) unmanned airship in 2009. SOC Coatings Lab designs custom 5.5 meter roll-to-roll vacuum chamber to produce reflective thermal control coating to Lockheed Martin for high-altitude reconnaissance and surveillance platform. Required new hull material was a key design feature to the development of the airship and SOC exceeded the manufacturing requirement of the program while successfully meeting spectral and environmental specifications.

Develop innovative spectrally tailored paint for USSOCOM in 2013. Surface Optics creates a thin film based electro-optical signature reduction paint that exceeds specifications and is less costly to manufacture than existing spectral paints on the market.

Release of new automated BRDF Lab Instrument in 2014. The SOC 210 is a full-featured goniometric measurement system for characterizing the angular scattering of light from surfaces. The fundamental property measured by the SOC-210 is the Bidirectional Reflectance Distribution Function (BRDF).

Completed prototype multispectral infrared imager for industrial flare monitoring in 2016. Surface Optics Corporation’s innovative multispectral infrared imager is at the core of a new solution for continuous automated flare efficiency monitoring. Infrared spectral imaging can directly measure relative concentrations of unburned hydrocarbons, product of combustion and product of incomplete combustion represented by carbon monoxide.

What's Ahead. Over the last forty years Surface Optics Corporation has expanded its capabilities beyond the original lab to keep pace with the needs of our customers. We have evolved into a ‘one stop shop’ for services and products related to optical property characterization and continue to develop innovative technology that pushes the field forward. A core business area for Surface Optic Corporation is spectral imaging technology, a global market projected to grow from USD 7.41 Billion in 2016 to 12.71 Billion by 2021. Our disruptive, patented technology is transforming the way spectral imaging is done. We have developed the first camera to combine the power of light field with spectral imaging, capturing the direction, color spectrum and brightness of the rays of light within a field of view. Combined with our patented real time processor we have created a unique video rate light field spectral camera relevant to the application challenges of industrial customers.

Surface Optics spectral imaging platform has the potential to become ubiquitous in the years to come in medical imaging, machine vision, agriculture and military sensing and we are already hard at work on what’s coming next.


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