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New Optical Polishing Machine Will Help Scientists Build Better Telescopes

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DENBIGHSHIRE, North Wales, Sept. 26 -- A £1million ($1.77 million) state-of-the-art optical polishing machine that will help scientists build the next generation of telescopes capable of seeing further into space than ever before has been installed at Technium OpTIC (optoelectronics technology and incubation center), the new facility in St. Asaph Business Park dedicated to the global optoelectronics industry.

The machine -- the only one of its kind in the world -- will allow scientists to shape and polish perfect optical segments of up to 1 m in diameter in an automatic process, hundreds and even thousands of which will be required for future astronomical telescopes such as the European Extremely Large Telescope.

In addition, it will also be able to make and polish other complex shapes, creating possibilities in the manufacture of free-form surfaces for industrial sectors including space and defence optics, aerospace (turbines), medical (knee joints) and semiconductors, among others.

The equipment has been procured from UK manufacturer Zeeko Ltd by the National Centre for Ultra Precision Surfaces Program, which is based at Technium OpTIC. The program is a £4.2 million ($7.4 million) collaborative project led by David Walker from the University College, London; professor Paul Shore from Cranfield University and the UK Astronomy Technology Centre at Edinburgh.

"To see other Earth-like planets orbiting around stars will take larger telescopes with better surfaces than those currently available today. The challenge to build the next generation of terrestrial telescopes will require the production of optical surfaces of up to 100 m and will not be feasible without the work going on at the National Centre for Ultra Precision Surfaces at OpTIC. This new machine will be used to develop novel methods to polish the hundreds to thousands of precise mirror segments needed to tile the massive mirrors for these future telescopes," Walker said.

Technium OpTIC is a £15.7 million ($27.8 million) project. Privately managed by Optropreneurs Ltd, it was initiated by the Welsh Optronics Forum and is part of the Technium Wales network, a pan-Wales initiative supported by the Welsh Assembly Government, Welsh Development Agency, European Union funding, the private sector and the higher education institutes of Wales.

Officials say the investment will place the North Wales optoelectronics sector at the leading edge of large diameter optic manufacturing globally and will lead to new employment and investment opportunities in the region as research leads to development and manufacturing opportunities. Optoelectronics are used within a wide range of products, from jet pilot visors to data and audio communications using fiber optics. Other applications include plasma screens, optical storage devices (CD and DVD), laser printers, scanners and digital cameras.
Sep 2005
The scientific observation of celestial radiation that has reached the vicinity of Earth, and the interpretation of these observations to determine the characteristics of the extraterrestrial bodies and phenomena that have emitted the radiation.
Pertaining to optics and the phenomena of light.
A sub-field of photonics that pertains to an electronic device that responds to optical power, emits or modifies optical radiation, or utilizes optical radiation for its internal operation. Any device that functions as an electrical-to-optical or optical-to-electrical transducer. Electro-optic often is used erroneously as a synonym.
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
The optical process, following grinding, that puts a highly finished, smooth and apparently amorphous surface on a lens or a mirror.
An afocal optical device made up of lenses or mirrors, usually with a magnification greater than unity, that renders distant objects more distinct, by enlarging their images on the retina.
astronomyBasic ScienceCommunicationsindustrialmirrorsNews & FeaturesopticaloptoelectronicsphotonicspolishingTechnium OpTICtelescopeWales

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