Our Evolution Through the Years

Dexter Research is the global leader in the manufacture of high-quality, high-output Bismuth-Antimony thin film and silicon-based infrared sensing thermopile detectors. This leadership was achieved through collaboration between former defense scientists at Willow Run Labs and Robert “Bob” Toth, Ph.D, a materials and thin film expert who had previously worked for Ford Scientific Labs.

Willow Run Labs, a part of the Engineering Research Institute of the University of Michigan, attracted a cadre of world-renowned researchers and engineers to help design what eventually became known as the U.S. anti-ballistic missile system. Remote sensing then played, and continues to perform, a key role in this ultra-sophisticated defense system.

During the mid-1960s, at the time that Willow Run Labs was perfecting many of the U.S. military weapons systems that proved so successful in the first and second Gulf Wars, sensors were extraordinarily expensive. As work progressed, the potential commercial applications of sensor technology began to be recognized, but high unit costs remained a barrier to technology transfer.

Cost vs. Performance

Sensors, Inc. was formed as a spin-off of Willow Run Labs research to commercialize infrared technologies. Dr. Bob Toth, now Chief Executive Officer of Dexter Research, was recruited from Ford Scientific Labs to leverage his materials expertise to reduce the cost barriers to market entry. Studying the problem, Bob was soon convinced that an infrared thermopile was the best answer to managing the trade-off between cost and performance.

Bob’s high-performance thermopiles immediately proved to be a commercial success, but he soon found that his employer’s thinking was limited by decisions made in the boardroom rather than in the lab. Believing he could do it better, Bob left the confines of large corporate “group think” to co-found the company that by 1977 was known as Dexter Research Center, Inc.

Leveraging his material science, engineering, and advanced thin film expertise, Bob soon had production-engineered a highly sensitive yet robust Bismuth-Antimony film detector that could be produced at one-tenth the cost.

Advanced Technology

Bob’s work utilized evaporating overlapping films of bismuth and antimony to form microscopic thermocouples. Bob proved that his design was more rugged than that of the traditional anodized aluminum thermopile. His work would lead to significant application development of the thermopile for space, industry, and medical applications because of its small critical mass, opening new doors in packaging, system costs, and performance.

Bob’s detector designs offer low mass absorbers that provide time constants that can be as short as 10 milliseconds. Furthermore, Dexter Research’s evaporation technique allows the thermopile to be designed to any size or shape.

Dexter Research’s first customers were radiometer and fire sensor manufacturers at Santa Barbara Research Center who supplied Hughes Aircraft. Finding that their applications were greatly advanced by Bob’s technology, the University of Southern California, Santa Barbara and surrounding technology firms have made Santa Barbara a hot-bed of applied science and engineering.

Best-in-Class Products

From the beginning, under Bob’s leadership, Dexter Research focused on collaborating with its customers to design, prove, and build custom detector applications. Today, the company has 31 thermopile products with over 1,000 configurations to date, far more than all competitors combined. Bob’s sensors now deliver a sensitivity range as low as .005° C and cost a fraction of the original prototype sensors.

Continuing its tradition of working with customers, Dexter Research has also developed a line of high-performance silicon sensors that offer best-in-class performance at competitive prices.

Today, Bob’s son Rob Toth is President of Dexter Research Center, while Bob remains the hands-on CEO in the lab. Bob’s work has made possible the fortunes of over 100 entrepreneurs, and today enterprising R&D, corporate, military, aerospace, government, and medical research leaders will tell you that if it matters and you want it to work:

“Ask Dexter Research.”

No wonder we’re everywhere it matters.

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