Adaptive Optics (AO) is a critical underpinning technology for future optical countermeasures, laser delivery, target illumination and imaging systems. It measures and compensates for optical distortion caused by transmission through the atmosphere, resulting in the ability to deploy smaller lasers and identify targets at greater ranges. AO is also well established in ground based astronomy, and is finding applications in free space optical communications and ophthalmology.
One of the key components in an AO system is the wavefront modifier, which acts on the incoming or outgoing beam to counter the effects of the atmosphere. BAE SYSTEMS ATC is developing multi-element Deformable Bimorph Mirrors (DBMs) for such applications.
A traditional bimorph deformable mirror uses a set of edge electrodes outside the active area in order to meet the required boundary conditions for the active aperture. This inflicts a significant penalty in terms of bandwidth, which is inversely proportional to the square of the full mirror diameter. We have devised a number of novel mounting arrangements that reduce dead space and thus provide a much improved trade-off between bandwidth and stroke. These schemes include a novel method for providing vertical displacement at the periphery of the aperture, a method for providing a continuous compliant support underneath the bimorph mirror, and a method for providing a three point support underneath the bimorph. In all three cases, there is no requirement for edge electrodes to provide the boundary conditions, resulting in devices of much higher bandwidth. The target is to broaden the use of these types of mirror beyond the current limits of either low order/low bandwidth, to address the high order, high bandwidth systems required by long range, horizontal path applications. This paper will discuss the different mirror designs, and present experimental results for the most recently assembled mirrors.