The use of thin-film membranes is of considerable interest for lightweight mirror applications. The low areal density makes them ideal for large aperture imaging applications. One type of setup looked into in the past has been the lenticular design, which consists of a clear canopy attached to a reflective film that uses positive pressure to set the curvature of the mirror. One drawback to this concept has been the fact that too much error was introduced during the pass through the canopy due to material inhomogeneities and poor optical properties. This is no longer an issue thanks to developments over the past several years in the field of optical-quality polymer development. Thin-films (< 24 microns) can now be routinely made with surface roughness, thickness variation, and very good transmission properties well within specification for many visible and IR applications. The next step in this developmental process has been maintaining a prescribed figure in the mirror. This paper summarizes the current efforts in fabricating and testing a 1-meter class lenticular membrane mirror system utilizing active boundary control and stress-coating applications to form a usable aperture for visible imaging applications.
Large aperture optical quality primary mirrors have been developed which are extremely lightweight (areal densities less than 1kg/m2) made from stretched reflective polymer membranes. However, aberrations induced by boundary support errors and pressurization of a flat membrane do not produce a perfect parabolic shape. Modeling studies have shown that active boundary control can be very effective in correcting certain types of figure errors typically seen in membrane mirrors. This paper validates these design studies by applying boundary control on a 0.25-meter pressure augmented membrane mirror (PAMM). The 0.25 meter PAMM was fabricated as a pathfinder for a larger prototype. A combination of displacement actuators and electrostatic force actuators were used to control the shape of the mirror. A varied thickness stress coating prescription was developed by a SRS/AFRL team using nonlinear membrane theory. Based on modeled data, the stress coating should force the membrane into a parabolic shape when pressurized, as opposed to a spherically aberrated shape characteristic of a pressurized flat membrane. Test data from the 0.25-meter PAMM proved that the varied thickness stress coating allows for a better shape than the uniform coating.
Materials and processes have been developed for production of polymer membranes with optical quality surface characteristics. These materials have been successfully used to manufacture large, high quality, ultra lightweight, optical flats for beam splitters, lens covers and other applications. These materials can potentially be used to develop large aperture primary mirrors with areal densities less than 1kg/m2. However, for curved mirrors it is more difficult to establish and maintain desired optical figure from the initial packaged configuration. This paper describes design analysis being performed to support fabrication of a membrane mirror test article. Modeling was performed to evaluate the effectiveness of several different boundary control concepts for correcting different types of figure aberrations. Analyses of different combinations of boundary displacement actuators, electrostatic force actuators, and pressure are presented.