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Boston Micromachines Deformable Mirror Used in Robo-AO, World’s First Robotic Astronomical Laser Adaptive Optics

BMC’s Deformable Mirror Chosen for Reliability, Compact Size and Off-the-Shelf Availability

Cambridge, Mass., September 24, 2012 – Boston Micromachines Corporation (BMC), a leading provider of MEMS-based deformable mirror (DM) products and adaptive optics systems, announced today that its Multi-DM is being used in Robo-AO, an autonomous laser adaptive optics (AO) and science instrument that is currently deployed at the 1.5-m telescope at Palomar, CA.

Robo-AO brings adaptive optics technology, normally limited to much larger telescopes with larger budgets, to small and mid-size telescopes, increasing their imaging power. Because it automates the processes, efficiency is increased, less effort is required and researchers are able to carry out many more observations per night than doing it manually. Additionally, because the system is robotic it can rapidly respond to new discoveries such as supernovae or repeatedly observe targets over time providing the ability to monitor weather on other planets in the solar system.

Boston Micromachines’ Multi-DM is used by Robo-AO to dramatically improve the quality of the telescope’s images by correcting for the degrading aberrations caused by atmospheric turbulence.

“We built this system with an eye toward automation, requiring that all components be extremely reliable and predictable, as well as cost effective,” said Christoph Baranec, Principal Investigator for the Robo-AO project which is a collaboration between Caltech Optical Observatories and the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics.  “Boston Micromachines’ Multi-DM fit our requirements perfectly – it is super reliable and economical. And being an off-the-shelf product we know that we can quickly and easily replace the Multi-DM if we ever need to.”

“As the first robotic and autonomous adaptive optics system, Robo-AO is a radical breakthrough in astronomy,” said Paul Bierden president of Boston Micromachines. “We are proud that once again our deformable mirrors have been an integral part of exciting and innovative projects like Robo-AO.”

TheMulti-DM offers sophisticated aberration compensation in an easy-to-use package. With 140 precisely controlled elements and low inter-actuator coupling, this system is ideal for a broad range of applications including such as astronomy, microscopy, retinal imaging, and laser beam shaping. The high speed, high precision driver electronics are easily controlled via USB interface. The DM is available in both continuous and segmented surfaces for adaptive optics or spatial light modulator applications. The DMs are capable of up to 5.5 μm stroke, 20 kHz frame rate, have sub-nm step size, and zero hysteresis.