By Cameron Chai
Boston Micromachines, a manufacturer of MEMS deformable mirrors (DMs) for use in adaptive optics systems, has declared that the Small Business Innovation Research Program of NASA has awarded a $125,000 Phase 1 contract to Boston Micromachines for assisting the exoplanet imaging research, a major objective of NASA.
It is difficult to shape the space telescope optics to the required accuracy in order to obtain the images of the earth-sized planets. Hence, DMs can be utilized to rectify the residual deviation caused by the preliminary fabrication and the gradually altering mechanical deformations of the installed primary mirror. With this contract, Boston Micromachines will develop production processes for enhancing the capability of DMs to rectify these residual deviations, which in turn decreases glare in imaging systems deployed for studying earth-sized planets.
According to the Phase 1 contract, Boston Micromachines will design and exhibit an advanced microfabrication technique to significantly enhance the surface quality feasible in superior-resolution, continuous-membrane MEMS-based DMs. The project objectives include achieving a small-scale surface flatness of at least two times better than that of the existing advanced optics, with related reductions in diffraction.
Boston Micromachines’ Co-Founder and President, Paul Bierden stated that the advancements in DM fabrication technology planned in this contract will support astronomers conducting imaging research on extra-solar planets. Moreover, this project will help commercial applications, including biological imaging, pulse shaping, surveillance and optical communications, he added.