For many aspheric and freeform optical components, existing interferometric solutions require a custom computer-generated hologram (CGH) to characterize the part. The overall objective of this research is to develop hardware and a procedure to produce a combined, dynamic, Hartmann/Digital Holographic interferometry inspection system for a wide range of advanced optical components, including aspheric and freeform optics. This new instrument would have greater versatility and dynamic range than currently available measurement systems.

The method uses a spatial light modulator to pre-condition wavefronts for imaging, interferometry, and data processing to improve the resolution and versatility of an optical inspection instrument. Existing interferometers and Hartmann inspection systems have either too small a dynamic range or insufficient resolution to characterize conveniently unusual optical surfaces like aspherical and freeform optics. For interferometers, a specially produced, computer-generated holographic optical element is needed to transform the wavefront to within the range of the interferometer.

A new hybrid wavefront sensor employs newly available spatial light modulators (SLMs) as programmable holographic optical elements (HOEs). The HOE is programmed to enable the same instrument to inspect an optical element in stages, first by a Hartmann measurement, which has a very large dynamic range but less resolution. The first measurement provides the information required to precondition a reference wave that avails the measurement process to the more precise phase shifting interferometry.

The SLM preconditions a wavefront before it is used to inspect an optical component. This adds important features to an optical inspection system, enabling not just wavefront conditioning for null testing and dynamic range extension, but also the creation of hybrid measurement procedures. This, for example, allows the combination of dynamic digital holography and Hartmann sensing procedures to cover a virtually unlimited dynamic range with high resolution. Digital holography technology brings all of the power and benefits of digital holographic interferometry to the requirement, while Hartmanntype wavefront sensors bring deflectometry technologies to the solution.

The SLM can be used to generate arbitrary wavefronts in one leg of the interferometer, thereby greatly simplifying its use and extending its range. The SLM can also be used to modify the system into a dynamic Shack-Hartmann system, which is useful for optical components with large amounts of slope. By integrating these capabilities into a single instrument, the system will have tremendous flexibility to measure a variety of optical shapes accurately.

This work was done by James Trolinger, Amit Lal, Joshua Jo, and Stephen Kupiec of MetroLaser, Inc. for Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-16056-1


Photonics Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the May, 2012 issue of Photonics Tech Briefs Magazine.

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