Lightweight, flexible, large-aperture mirrors of a type being developed for use in outer space have unimorph structures that enable precise adjustment of their surface figures. A mirror of this type includes a reflective membrane layer bonded with an electrostrictive grafted elastomer (G-elastomer) layer, plus electrodes suitably positioned with respect to these layers. By virtue of the electrostrictive effect, an electric field applied to the G-elastomer membrane induces a strain along the membrane and thus causes a deflection of the mirror surface. Utilizing this effect, the mirror surface figure can be adjusted locally by individually addressing pairs of electrodes.
G-elastomers, which were developed at NASA Langley Research Center, were chosen for this development in preference to other electroactive polymers partly because they offer superior electromechanical performance. Whereas other electroactive polymers offer, variously, large strains with low moduli of elasticity or small strains with high moduli of elasticity, G-elastomers offer both large strains (as large as 4 percent) and high moduli of elasticity (about 580 MPa). In addition, G-elastomer layers can be made by standard melt pressing or room-temperature solution casting.