Grant to help improve quality of deformable mirrors
NASA has awarded MEMS-based deformable mirror (DM) developer Boston Micromachines Corp. (BMC; Cambridge, MA, USA) a contract to enhance the performance of its manufacturing processes.
One of NASA’s core objectives is to explore Earth-like planets outside of our solar system. But because theoptics of space telescopes cannot be shaped to the precision required for imaging of small Earth-sized planets, DMs must be used to correct for the residual aberrations resulting from initial fabrication and slowly changing mechanical deformations of the deployed primary mirror.
The grant, awarded as part of NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR), will enable Boston Micromachines to develop a microfabrication process that will improve the quality of DMs to correct for these residual aberrations, resulting in reduced glare in imaging systems used in the search for Earth-sized planets.
The engineers at Boston Micromachines are aiming for a twofold improvement in the surface flatness of the DMs in comparison to current DMs, and a corresponding reduction in diffraction.
"The improvements in DM fabrication will help astronomers achieve their goal of imaging Earth-like planets in other solar systems," says Paul Bierden, president and co-founder of Boston Micromachines. "In addition, this research has potential impact on commercial applications such as optical communications, surveillance, pulse shaping, andbiological imaging."
-- By Dave Wilson, Senior Editor,Vision Systems Design