Tech Briefs

This innovation uses MEMS technology to selectively capture spectra of distant objects.

The field of view required for future missions is much larger than for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Researchers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center have created a new actuation scheme to reduce mass and complexity of the microshutters used on the NIRSpec instrument. This new development implements pulsed electrostatic actuation in place of magnetic actuation.

Electrostatically pulsed actuated microshutter arrays can capture the spectra of more than 100 distant objects at once (left), while also blocking out the unwanted light of nearer bright objects (right).

The electrostatically pulsed shutters have a unique combination of geometry and materials that permits them to be actuated with drive voltages of less than 200 V. Shutters can be randomly selected open, latch, hold, and released close. This innovation significantly reduces actuation and 2D addressing time to less than a second. The mass of the required hardware and its complexity is significantly reduced by eliminating the need for a bulk magnet.

The technology is more reliable without the possibility of any malfunction in the magnet setup. It’s scalable to large size arrays because without the magnet, multiple microshutter arrays (MSAs) can be stitched to form a mosaic covering a large field of view. The technology offers up to three orders of magnitude increase in efficiency, providing large improvements in performance for optical and UV telescopes, as well as IR systems.

The new microshutters can be used in field selectors on large telescopes, and in fast light switches/attenuators in LIDAR applications or infrared scene projection. They can also provide physical control of molecular or atomic flow on a microscopic scale.

NASA is actively seeking licensees to commercialize this technology. Please contact the Strategic Partnerships Office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to initiate licensing discussions. Follow this link for more information: here.

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