Fast adaptive optics technology for advanced laser applications

Lead Research Organisation: University of the West of Scotland
Department Name: School of Science


The UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UKATC) and the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) have developed a novel adaptive optic technology. The aim of the STFC funded research on which this PIPSS proposal is based is to provide technology which will be used in the mirror systems of the European Extremely Large Telescope. Our technology concerns the deformable mirrors which are used to correct distortions in the light coming into the telescope from space, which in a ground-based telescope is usually caused by the light travelling through the earth's atmosphere. The deformable mirrors can be bent into shape to correct for the atmospheric distortion in the light waves. The bending forces are supplied by actuators, such as the piezoelectric stack actuators discussed in this proposal. The new technology we have developed enables us to have accurate knowledge of the extension of each actuator from a sensor embedded in the actuator itself. It can remove uncertainties caused by hysteresis in the individual actuators, which means that the control voltage cannot move the actuators correctly to the desired position. The sensing technique will be combined with a manufacturing process which enables dense arrays of miniature actuators to produced cost-effectively. The project partners have protected the intellectual property in this technology with a joint patent. Discussions with industry indicated that this technology is likely to have applications outside astronomy in advanced laser systems which also have deformable mirrors built in, for example for shaping a laser beam or removing distortion. Incorporating the technology into these systems will improve the speed and accuracy with which the laser beam can be corrected. During this project we will develop the technology for these laser applications, in close collaboration with the industrial partner.


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