Vibration Isolation in Optical Test Systems

In the world of precision motion control there is a continuous pursuit of higher performance, whether it’s resolution, speed, stability, accuracy or step size. Even if a specified device appears on paper to be capable of achieving excellent results, the design of the mechanics and the platform stability play an integral role in achieving peak performance.

Figure 1. Precision-ground, stainless steel optical posts for ultra-stable alignment and mounting of optical components.
There is certainly an aspect of “art” in optical system design as these unique inventors look for new, innovative techniques to shape, bend, and manipulate light, either through the creation of new optical elements or by combining multiple elements. Equally important parts of the design are the mechanical elements that support, move, or control each component in the optical path. Each of these mechanical elements contributes to the stability (or instability) of the output beam and can be a hidden source of error if not properly designed or constructed.

Vibration ControlDynamic PerformanceOptical Delay Lines

Figure 3. Graph of the Dynamic Compliance test results.
A common application where vibration platforms, optical components, and precision motion control must be carefully combined is the optical delay line (ODL). Optical delay lines are used to make minute changes in the total path length photons travel before reaching their destination. Common applications for delay lines include optical coherence tomography and pumpprobe investigations such as two-dimensional infrared and transient-absorption spectroscopy. In these applications it is critical not only to be able to achieve very small incremental motions but also to maintain beam position along the total path of travel. In some applications data is taken in a “step-and-settle” process but other applications require data “on-the-fly,” which requires more rigid components and careful attention to excitation frequencies of all components involved.

Newport manufactures an ODL kit (Figure 4) that allows users to select various levels of performance ranging from 100nm stages that provide 0.67 femtosecond (fs) delays, up to 1250nm stages that provide 8.33-fs delays. The ODL kit has been designed to provide the performance and stability required for critical applications. Notice in the Newport ODL the common use of 1.0- in. diameter posts and their minimal height since this provides the highest level of stability for optical mounts as shown in the testing results.

Figure 4. This Optical Delay Line Kit from Newport Corporation provides researchers and scientistswith all the necessary components to create a high quality, free-space optical delay line assembly.
In the post testing results presented at the beginning of this article it was shown that the 0.5-in. diameter post exhibited 33.1 micro-in/lb displacement which translates to 0.840mm or 840μm motion when experiencing a 1- lb force. A 1-lb force is rather large for a typical optical experience but even at 1/1000th of that amount, it would translate to an 840nm movement, which would not allow users to achieve better than a 5.6-fs delay. Using a 1.0- in. diameter post in this same set-up would permit reaching a 0.72-fs delay. Although these displacement approximations represent a 4-in. post height, and shorter heights would enable better performance, consideration of the structural design factors that affect optical stability, including component resonance and stiffness, is critical in all applications that involve optical elements and precision motion control. These applications include micromachining, sensor characterization and calibration, laser imaging or optical material characterization.

In sensitive applications, susceptibility to vibration and the realization of precision motion is not only a function of the optical platform, but also of the selection and installation of the optical components. It is a function of how all of these elements interact with the motorized positioners that is essential to achieving the desired step size of position sensitivity.

This article was written by Vyacheslav M. “Slava” Ryaboy Ph.D., D. Sc., Principal Mechanical Engineer, and James Fisher, Sr. Director, Newport Vibration Control Division (Irvine, CA). For more information, contact Dr. Ryaboy at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Mr. Fisher at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit http://info.hotims.com/34458-200.

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