NASA grant for MEMS deformable mirror fab awarded to Boston Micromachines

March 7, 2011 – Marketwire — Boston Micromachines Corporation (BMC), MEMS-based deformable mirror (DM) provider for adaptive optics systems, won a Phase 1 contract for $100,000 from NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) to support space-based imaging research.

The Phase 1 project is for the development of a reliable, fault-tolerant microelectromechanical deformable mirror (MEMS-DM) technology, which will fill a critical gap in NASA’s roadmap for future coronagraphic observatories. BMC will implement two innovative, complementary modifications to the MEMS manufacturing process. The team will develop a drive electronics approach that inherently limits actuator electrical current density generated to prevent permanent failure when a short time frame single fault failure occurs, as well as modify the actuator design to mitigate failure due to adhesion between contacting surfaces of the actuator flexure and fixed base.

NASA has identified a current technology need for compact, ultra-precise, multi-thousand actuator DM devices. Space-based telescopes have become indispensible in advancing the frontiers of astrophysics. Over the past decade NASA has pioneered coronagraphic instrument concepts and test beds to provide a foundation for exploring feasibility of coronagraphic approaches to high-contrast imaging and spectroscopy.

"Space-based astronomical imaging systems are inherently challenged by the need to achieve diffraction-limited performance with relatively lightweight optical components. Given the current constraints on fabrication methods, a new manufacturing technique is required to increase reliability and prevent single actuator failures," said Paul Bierden, president and co-founder of Boston Micromachines. "This project will result in innovative advances in component design and fabrication and substantial progress in the development of high-resolution deformable mirrors suitable for space-based operation."

This Phase 1 award is part of NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research programs. The competitive programs afford small businesses the chance to propose unique ideas that meet specific research and development needs of the government. The criteria used to choose these winning proposals include technical merit and feasibility, experience, qualifications, effectiveness of the work plan and commercial potential.

Boston Micromachines Corporation (BMC) makes advanced microelectromechanical systems (MEMS)-based mirror products for use in commercial adaptive optics systems. By applying wavefront correction to produce high resolution images, BMC devices can be used for imaging biological tissue and the human retina and to enhance images blurred by the earth’s atmosphere. The company’s suite of compact deformable mirror (DM) products is cost effective and high performance. For more information on BMC, please visit

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