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30 January 2003 Rewritable photochromic focal plane masks
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The application of organic photochromic materials in astronomy is opening new possibilities which we are investigating in order to design innovative devices for future instrumentation. The photochromic property of transparent/opaque transition (although in a limited wavelength range) and the changes in intrinsic refractive index have led our studies to application in astronomic spectrographs, both as focal plane mask (for MOS application) and as dispersive elements (volume phase holographic gratings, VPHG), respectively. In both cases the possibility to write and erase devices with suitable irradiation has revealed a new perspective for non-disposable and fully customizable items for spectroscopy. Pursuing this goal we have synthesized a series of novel photochromic materials belonging to the diarylethenes. They fulfill the requirements of thermal stability and fatigue resistance necessary to build functional devices. Prototypes of high contrast focal plane mask working in the H-alpha spectral region have been manufactured and characterized both in laboratory and with the AFOSC camera at Asiago telescope (1.8 m). A custom writing robot (ARATRO) which, taking imaging frames and with the aid of interactive mask design software and ad hoc control electronics, is able to write MOS masks, has been constructed. The design of the MOS masks allow the fitting in the AFOSC slit wheel. The overall set-up is ready for the sky tests.
© (2003) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Emilio Molinari, Chiara Bertarelli, Andrea Bianco, Fabio Bortoletto, Paolo Conconi, Giuseppe Crimi, Maria Carla Gallazzi, Enrico Giro, Andrea Lucotti, Claudio Pernechele, Filippo Maria Zerbi, and Giuseppe Zerbi "Rewritable photochromic focal plane masks", Proc. SPIE 4842, Specialized Optical Developments in Astronomy, (30 January 2003);

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