This proposal aims to make fundamental progress in one of NASA’s core objectives: to explore Earth-like exo-planets using space-based Coronagraphs. Coronagraphs null starlight speckles using deformable mirrors, enabling planet detection. One NASA-identified technology gap is the need for compact, ultraprecise, multi-thousand actuator deformable mirrors (DMs). Boston Micromachines Corporation is a leading producer of such DMs, which have been used in space-based applications and NASA Coronagraph test beds. However, their surface quality is currently limited to ~10nm-rms by topographic print-through on the mirror surface. BMC proposes to employ a modified manufacturing process developed in Phase I research to eliminate print-through. The new process will lead to production of DMs with surface figure errors measuring 1nm-rms. Such DMs are needed for all space-based coronographs that have been proposed for future NASA missions including WFIRST, HabEx, and LUVOIR
Deformable mirrors that can enable 1x10-10 contrast in NASA Coronagraph test beds and are candidates for use in space-based Coronagraphs used to search for Earth-like exo-planets. Planned NASA space-based observatories such as LUVOIR and HabEx require the control provided by the proposed DMs. These devices will fill a critical technology gap in NASA’s vision for high-contrast imaging and spectroscopy instruments.
High-resolution, ultra-smooth MEMS deformable mirrors have non-NASA applications. They can improve the performance of terrestrial telescopes such as TMT and E-ELT. They can also be used as high-resolution wavefront correctors in laser communication, microscopy, and imaging.