A method has been developed for fabricating gratings on flat substrates, and then reproducing the groove pattern on a curved (concave or convex) substrate and a corresponding grating device. First, surface relief diffraction grating grooves are formed on flat substrates. For example, they may be fabricated using photolithography and reactive ion etching, maskless lithography, holography, or mechanical ruling. Then, an imprint of the grating is made on a deformable substrate, such as plastic, polymer, or other materials using thermoforming, hot or cold embossing, or other methods. Interim stamps using electroforming, or other methods, may be produced for the imprinting process or if the same polarity of the grating image is required. The imprinted, deformable substrate is then attached to a curved, rigid substrate using epoxy or other suitable adhesives. The imprinted surface is facing away from the curved rigid substrate.

As an alternative fabrication method, after grating is imprinted on the deformable substrate as described above, the grating may be coated with thin conformal conductive layer (for example, using vacuum deposition of gold). Then the membrane may be mounted over an opening in a pressured vessel in a manner of a membrane on a drum, grating side out. The pressure inside of the vessel may be changed with respect to the ambient pressure to produce concave or convex membrane surface. The shape of the opening may control the type of the surface curvature (for example, a circular opening would create spherical surface, oval opening would create toroidal surface, etc.). After that, well-known electroforming methods may be used to create a replica of the grating on the concave or convex membrane. For example, the pressure vessel assembly may be submerged into an electro-forming solution and negative electric potential applied to the metal coated membrane using an insulated wire. Positive electric potential may be then applied to a nickel or other metal plate submerged into the same solution. Metal ions would transfer from the plate through the solution into the membrane, producing high fidelity metal replica of the grating on the membrane.

In one variation, an adhesive may be deposited on the deformable substrate, and then cured without touching the rigid, curved substrate. Edges of the deformable substrate may be attached to the rigid substrate to ensure uniform deformation of the deformable substrate. The assembly may be performed in vacuum, and then taken out to atmospheric pressure conditions to ensure that no air is trapped between the deformable and rigid substrates.

Alternatively, a rigid surface with complementary curvature to the rigid substrate may be used to ensure uniform adhesion of the deformable substrate to the rigid substrate. Liquid may be applied to the surface of the deformable substrate to uniformly distribute pressure across its surface during the curing or hardening of the adhesive, or the film may be pressed into the surface using a deformable object or surface. After the attachment is complete, the grooves may be coated with reflective or dielectric layers to improve diffraction efficiency.

This work was done by David Content of Goddard Space Flight Center and Dmitri Iazikov, Thomas W. Mossberg, and Christopher M. Greiner of LightSmyth Technologies. For more information, download the Technical Support Package (free white paper) at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Manufacturing & Prototyping category. GSC-15769-1