A simple, inexpensive, low-tech method is proposed for testing pointing stability versus temperature and other environmental influences.

For a variety of applications, it is important to measure the sensitivity of the pointing of a beam emerging from a collimator, as a function of temperature changes. A straightforward method for carrying out this measurement is based on using interferometry for monitoring the changes in beam pointing, which presents its own problems. The added temperature dependence and complexity issues relating to using an interferometer are addressed by not using an interferometer in the first place. Instead, the collimator is made part of an arrangement that uses a minimum number of low-cost, off-the-shelf materials and by using a quad diode to measure changes in beam pointing.

In order to minimize the influence of the test arrangement on the outcome of the measurement, several steps are taken. The collimator assembly is placed on top of a vertical, 1-m-long, fused silica tube. The quad diode is bonded to a fused silica bar, which, in turn, is bonded to the lower end of the fused silica tube. The lower end of the tube rests on a self-aligning support piece, while the upper end of the tube is kept against two rounded setscrew tips, using a soft rubber string. This ensures that very little stress is applied to the tube as the support structure changes dimensions due to thermal expansion. Light is delivered to the collimator through a bare fiber in order to minimize variable bending torque caused by a randomly relaxing, rigid fiber jacket.

In order to separate the effect of temperature on the collimator assembly from the effect temperature has on the rest of the setup, multiple measurements are taken with the collimator assembly rotated from measurement to measurement. Laboratory testing, with 1-m spacing between the collimator and the quad diode, has shown that the sensitivity of the arrangement is better than 100 nm rms, over time spans of at least one hour, if the beam path is protected from atmospheric turbulence by a tube. The equivalent sensitivity to detecting changes in pointing angle is 100 nanoradians.

This work was done by Alex Abramovici, Timothy E. Cox, Randall C. Hein, and Daniel R. MacDonald of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NPO-47529

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