Typically, light interacts with matter via the electric field and interaction with weakly bound electrons. In a magnetic mirror, a patterned nanowire is fabricated over a metallic layer with a dielectric layer in between. Oscillation of the electrons in the nanowires in response to the magnetic field of incident photons causes a re-emission of photons and operation as a “magnetic mirror.” By controlling the index of refraction in the dielectric layer using a local applied voltage, the phase of the emitted radiation can be controlled. This allows electrical modification of the reflected wavefront, resulting in a deformable mirror that can be used for wavefront control.
Certain applications require wavefront quality in the few-nanometer regime, which is a major challenge for optical fabrication and alignment of mirrors or lenses. The use of a deformable magnetic mirror allows for a device with no moving parts that can modify the phase of incident light over many spatial scales, potentially with higher resolution than current approaches. Current deformable mirrors modify the incident wavefront by using nano-actuation of a substrate to physically bend the mirror to a desired shape.
The purpose of the innovation is to modify the incident wavefront for the purpose of correction of fabrication and alignment-induced wavefront errors at the system level. The advanced degree of precision required for some applications such as gravity wave detection (LISA — Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) or planet finding (FKSI — Fourier-Kelvin Stellar Interfswerometer) requires wavefront control at the limits of the current state of the art.
All the steps required to fabricate a magnetic mirror have been demonstrated. The modification is to apply a bias voltage to the dielectric layer so as to change the index of refraction and modify the phase of the reflected radiation. Light is reflected off the device and collected by a phase-sensing interferometer. The interferometer determines the initial wavefront of the device and fore optics. A wavefront correction is calculated, and voltage profile for each nanowire strip is determined. The voltage is applied, modifying the local index of refraction of the dielectric under the nanowire strip. This modifies the phase of the reflected light to allow wavefront correction.
This work was done by John Hagopian and Edward Wollack of Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-16008-1