A technique for measuring optical beam shear is based on collecting light from the four quadrants of the beam and comparing the optical power collected from each quadrant with that from the other three quadrants. As used here, "shear" signifies lateral displacement of a beam of light from a nominal optical axis.

A sensor for implementing this technique consists of a modified focusing lens and a quad-cell photodetector, both centered on the nominal optical axis. The modification of the lens consists in cutting the lens into four sectors (corresponding to the four quadrants) by sawing along two orthogonal diameters, then reassembling the lens following either of two approaches described next.

An Optical Beam-Shear Sensor can be made from a lens and a quad-cell photodetector.
In one approach, the lens is reassembled by gluing the sectors back together. In the simplest variant of this approach, the kerf of the saw matches the spacing of the photodetector cells, so that the focus of each sector crosses the axis of symmetry to fall on the opposite photodetector cell (see figure). In another variant of this approach, the lens sectors are spaced apart to make their individual foci to fall on separate photodetector cells, without crossing the optical axis. In the case of a sufficiently wide beam, the modified lens could be replaced with four independent lenses placed in a square array, each focusing onto an independent photodetector.

This work was done by Stefan Martin and Piotr Szwaykowski of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Physical Sciences category. NPO-41746