Space exploration is linked to the development of increasingly innovative instrumentation, able to withstand the operation environment, rich in ion particles and characterized by high temperatures. Future space missions such as JUICE and SOLAR ORBITER will operate in a very harsh and extreme environment-. Electrons and ions are considered among the causes of potential damage of the optical instrumentation and components. Development of hard coatings capable to preserve their optical properties is pivotal. Different coating materials have been exposed to ion irradiation in particle accelerators. Change in optical performances has been observed in the extreme ultraviolet and visible spectral region and structural properties have been analyzed by different techniques. The knowledge of the damage mechanisms and thresholds allows the selection of more promising candidate materials to realize the optical components for the new frontiers space missions.
A new technology has been developed to grow layers of amorphous hydrogenated Silicon Carbide in vacuum, at
temperatures below 100-120°C by Physical Enhanced Chemical Vapour Deposition (PE-CVD) technology. The layers
have been used either to improve the surface quality of SiC mirror substrates (produced by methods different of the
CVD approach, like e.g. sintered SiC) as a super-polishable cladding coatings, or to form self-sustaining thin mirrors in
SiC. It should be noted that the PE-CVD claddings can be applied also to substrates different than SiC, as e.g. metals
like Al or Kanigen, in order to create a high durability polishable external layer. It this paper we present the results of a
wide characterization of the new material, considering the mechanical, structural and optical properties that are the most
indicative parameters for its application in optics, with particular reference to the production of mirrors for ground and
space astronomical applications.