The Optics and Opto-Electronics Laboratories
What are their roles?
The word ‘optics’ comes from the Greek for eye, but ESA’s Optics & Opto-Electronics Labs of the TEC-M department perform tests far beyond the limits of human vision, from thermal infrared to energetic ultraviolet wavelengths.
The Optics Lab performs initial design assessments, optical components testing for space telescopes, cameras and imaging instruments of all sizes, including spectrometers and other subsystems as well as assessing the optical properties of new materials and coatings. It also supports laser communication activities. The Opto-Electronics lab investigates devices that generate, detect and manipulate light, notably high-performance lasers, focal plane detectors and light conversion and guiding, e.g. fibre-optics, as versatile tools for photonic payloads.
What services do they offer?
The Optics Lab offers several specialised services, including the following measurements:
- Visual microscopic surface inspection
- White-light microscope surface topography (nm level)
- Spectral reflectance and transmittance
- Interferometric wavefront error up to 20 cm diameter
- Imaging performance with a 50 cm collimator
- MTF and PSF
- BRDF and BTDF 2-dim and 3-dim
- Absolute Irradiance
The Opto-Electronics Lab offer several specialised services, including:
- Laser-induced contamination tests
- Laser-induced damage threshold tests
- Optical coatings shift characterisation during air-vacuum transition
- Laser-diode lifetime testing under space-representative conditions
- Characterisation of lasers and verification of laser designs, including mechanical
- stability and beam quality
- Spectral measurements from near-infrared to ultraviolet spectral range
- Lidar atmospheric measurements
- Fibre-optic component testing.
How are they equipped?
The OL comprises a class 10 000 (ISO 7) cleanroom with adjoining airlock and preparation room, a standard environment large-volume room with equipment crane for handling large equipment, plus a dedicated room for the measurement of bidirectional reflectance distribution function (BRDF), boasting an advanced scatterometer with angular accuracy down to less than one-tenth of a degree and a dynamic range of more than 13 orders of magnitude. Other optical equipment available includes a white-light interferometric microscope, high-precision visual microscopes for detailed surface inspection and a large calibrated optical collimator. It is also equipped with a small vacuum chamber to assess how wavefront errors or other optical properties change with the air to vacuum transitions.
Who are their customers?
The Optics Lab (OL) and Opto-Electronics Lab (OEL) support ESA projects throughout their life cycles. They assist ESA teams and European industry– including small- and medium-sized enterprises – with precision optical and photonic measurement techniques outside their normal test resources or area of expertise. As an example of external customers for the OEL, specialised tests have been run for the Israeli SD laser diode company through a contract funded by the Israel Space Agency for Israel’s SCD. Specialised tests for laser diodes needed for Optical Atomic Clocks are also underway.
The OL’s work in characterising new optical materials underpinned the Herschel and Planck missions, which employed silicon carbide and carbon-fibre reinforced plastic, respectively. It has contributed with straylight analysis and materials testing to several space telescopes including James Webb, Gaia, Solar Orbiter and BepiColombo. Currently there is a significant effort in support of several Earth observation missions for the characterisation of both diffraction efficiency and straylight performance of advanced optical gratings. OEL missions supported include lidar-based ADM-Aeolus, EarthCARE and BepiColombo.
Lab Managers Bernhard Furch Bernhard.Furch@esa.int
Last update: 4 June 2014