December 11, 2008 Boston Micromachines Corp. (BMC), a provider of MEMS-based deformable mirror products for adaptive optics systems, announced that its deformable mirrors are being widely used by leading astronomers around the world in the historic search for new galaxies and extra-solar planets. Research organizations, including French Aerospace Lab ONERA, University of Florida, the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii, and Durham University in England, are implementing the Boston Micromachines deformable mirrors in testbeds and on-sky equipment.
The roots of adaptive optics technology are in the field of astronomy. It was introduced in the 1950s as a concept for improving astronomical imaging by correcting for atmospheric aberration caused by turbulence. Today, ground-based telescopes around the world are equipped with adaptive optic telescope mirrors, successfully and reliably generating high-resolution images of their targets and even rivaling the image clarity of their space-based telescope mirror counterparts. Adaptive optics’ widespread adoption can be attributed to its inclusion of precision optics, sophisticated wavefront sensors, and more recently, MEMS deformable mirrors. BMC deformable mirrors, capable of correcting high resolution aberrations, are integral components in major astronomy research projects worldwide.
“Our scientific goal is to develop technology to directly detect planets orbiting nearby stars, via imaging. Our challenge is that planets, especially those resembling Earth, are factors of millions to tens of billions times fainter than stars and located within close angular proximity,” said Dr. Justin Crepp, formerly a PhD student at University of Florida (currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at California Institute of Technology). “We are using the Multi-DM for both phase and amplitude wavefront correction, which is critical to achieving the required sensitivity.”
Boston Micromachines’ MEMS deformable mirrors are also being used in testbeds for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), a next generation large telescope which aims to have ten times sharper image than the Hubble Telescope. A crucial component of the project is adaptive optics. At the French Aerospace Lab, ONERA, Boston Micromachines’ Multi-DM is being tested for use in Multi-Object Adaptive Optics (MOAO). “We are using MEMS mirrors because their low hysteresis, very good reproducibility, and high temporal bandwidth meet our needs,” said Dr. Thierry Fusco of ONERA.
Also conducting testing in MOAO for the E-ELT is Durham University in the UK, using Boston Micromachines’ Kilo-DM. “We find MEMS technology to be a good choice for our research because of the compact size, large number of actuators, and open-loop control characteristics,” said Dr. Richard Myers, Durham University.
“We are happy to be working with these world-class institutions and support their astronomical discoveries,” said Paul Bierden, president and CEO of Boston Micromachines. “Our deformable mirrors, with their high lateral resolution and exceptional wavefront control, have the unique technical capabilities to meet the challenging requirements of astronomy research.”