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BMC to Improve Imaging of Exoplanets

Photonics Spectra
Apr 2012
CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Dec. 22, 2011 — Boston Micromachines Corp. (BMC) has been awarded a Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research contract for $125,000 by NASA to advance exoplanet imaging research involving deformable mirrors.

One of NASA’s core objectives is to explore exoplanets — earthlike planets outside of our solar system. Space telescope optics cannot be shaped to the precision required for imaging of small earth-size planets, so deformable mirrors — such as the ones developed at BMC — must be used to correct for the residual aberrations resulting from initial fabrication and from slowly changing mechanical deformations of the deployed primary mirror.

The grant will enable BMC to develop processes and manufacturing innovations that will improve the ability of deformable mirrors to correct for these residual aberrations.

BMC will develop and demonstrate an innovative microfabrication process to substantially improve the surface quality achievable in high-resolution continuous-membrane MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) deformable mirrors. The goals include at least a twofold improvement in small-scale surface flatness in comparison with the state of the art, and corresponding reductions in diffraction.

“The improvements in deformable mirror fabrication technology proposed in this project will help astronomers achieve their goal of imaging earthlike planets in other solar systems,” said Paul Bierden, president and co-founder of BMC. “In addition, this research has potential impact on commercial applications such as optical communications, surveillance, pulse shaping and biological imaging.”

For more information, visit:  

AmericasBoston MicromachinesBusinessCommunicationscontractsdeformable mirrorsenergyexoplanet imagingimagingindustriallight speedMassachusettsmicrofabrication processesmirrorsNASAopticsPaul BierdenSBIR grantstelescope optics

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