By Cameron Chai
Boston Micromachines (BMC), a company that produces MEMS-based deformable mirror (DM) devices for adaptive optics systems, declared that it has received $1.2M in contracts from the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) of NASA to conduct research activities related to space-based imaging. The company received the contracts for Phase II after it completed Phase I successfully.
The first part of the Phase II project involves the development of low-power, high-voltage and compact multiplexed drive electronics that can be integrated with BMC’s DMs to suit space-based wavefront control systems. This project will scale up DMs driver circuit that the company already designed for NASA’s Terrestrial Planet Finder Mission. The objective of the project is to considerably lower the power consumption and size and achieve a major reduction in interconnection complexity with high accuracy essential for high contrast detection of exoplanets.
The second part of the Phase II project involves the designing and fabricating a MEMS array, which comprises 1021 densely-packed, ultra-flat mirror segments in the shape of a hexagon. Each MEMS mirror segment can be incorporated in a space-based hyper-contrast coronagraph imaging telescope for locating terrestrial planets as it offers tip, tilt, and piston (TTP) control with sub-nanometer accuracy.
The micromachined DM will be created using novel manufacturing techniques. The large array of mirror segments with ë/100 optical quality and three degrees of freedom would become a major technological advancement and an important component of high contrast visible nulling coronagraph devices required for exoplanet imaging.