The proposed innovation is aimed at the Focus Area 10 Advanced Telescope Technologies, subtopic S2.03 Advanced Optical Systems and Fabrication/Testing/Control Technologies for Extended-Ultraviolet/Optical and Infrared Telescope (Scope Title: Fabrication, Test, and Control of Advanced Optical Systems). Hedgefog Research Inc. (HFR) proposes to develop a new Thermal Expansion Mapper (TEM) providing rapid, nondestructive characterization of the coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) homogeneity in 4-m-class Zerodur and 2-m-class ULE mirror substrates. TEM sensor, employing almost exclusively COTS sub-components, is capable of measuring CTE at multiple locations to sub-ppb/K uncertainty with spatial sampling on a 100×100 grid. In principle, TEM technology has the potential to far exceed the requirement of this solicitation by reaching sub-mm2 spatial resolution and 10 ppt/K uncertainty of CTE (ppt: part per trillion). This new characterization capability will allow selection of mirror substrates before they undergo costly manufacturing process to turn into lightweight space mirrors for NASA’s telescopes.
NASA applications for TEM are mainly focused on fundamental physics research, characterization of large and small optics and, possibly, aerospace components. In essence, TEM provides a simple and ultrasensitive approach to mapping the CTE of various components, small and large in size, by employing a novel sensing scheme while leveraging mature commercial technologies. As the result, HFR’s approach promises a low-cost, versatile solution not just to NASA but all branches of the Government and numerous Government contractors.
Commercial applications of the proposed technology include optics characterization, materials for aerospace, automotive, semiconductor industry (EUV lithography) and, possibly, medical instrumentation industry. All these applications require mapping of the inhomogeneity of CTE. Additionally, TEM technology will find uses in micro-optics.