Membrane Adaptive Optics
AIR FORCE RESEARCH LAB KIRTLAND AFB NM DIRECTED ENERGY DIRECTORATE
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An innovative adaptive optic is discussed that provides a range of capabilities unavailable with either existing, or newly reported, research devices. It is believed that this device will be inexpensive and uncomplicated to construct and operate, with a large correction range that should dramatically relax the static and dynamic structural tolerances of a telescope. As the areal density of a telescope primary is reduced, the optimal optical figure and the structural stiffness are inherently compromised and this phenomenon will require a responsive, range-enhanced wavefront corrector. In addition to correcting for the aberrations in such innovative primary mirrors, sufficient throw remains to provide non-mechanical steering to dramatically improve the field of regard. Time-dependent changes such as thermal disturbances can also be accommodated. The proposed adaptive optic will overcome some of the issues facing conventional deformable mirrors, as well as current and proposed MEMS-based deformable mirrors and liquid-crystal-based adaptive optics. Such a device is scalable to meter diameter apertures, eliminates high actuation voltages with minimal power consumption, provides long throw optical path correction, provides polychromatic dispersion free operation, dramatically reduces the effects of adjacent actuator influence, and provides a nearly 100 useful aperture. This article will reveal top-level details of the proposed construction and include portions of a static, dynamic, and residual aberration analysis. This device will enable certain designs previously conceived by visionaries in the optical community.