A document proposes that light-weight, deployable, large- aperture, controllable curved mirrors made of reflectively coated thin electroactive-polymer (EAP) films be developed for use in spaceborne microwave and optical systems. In these mirrors, the EAP films would serve as both structures and actuators. EAPs that are potentially suit- able for such use include piezoelectric, electrostrictive, ferroelectric, and di-electric polymers. These materials exhibit strains proportional to the squares of applied electric fields. Utilizing this phenomenon,a curved mirror according to the proposal could be made from a flat film, upon which a nonuniform electrostatic potential (decreasing from the center toward the edge) would be imposed to obtain a required curvature. The effect would be analogous to that of an old-fashioned metalworking practice in which a flat metal sheet is made into a bowl by hammering it repeatedly, the frequency of hammer blows decreasing with distance from the center. In operation, the nonuniform electrostatic potential could be imposed by use of an electron gun. Calculations have shown that by use of a single-layer film made of a currently available EAP, it would be possible to control the focal length of a 2m-diameter mirror from infinity to 1.25 m.

This work was done by Xiaoqi Bao,Yoseph Bar-Cohen, and Stewart Sherrit of Caltech for NASA 's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NPO-40275.