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Elastomer Optics

Tunable Micro-optics with Structured Elastomers


This project investigates new types of tunable optical components that are based on structured elastomers. These can be lens systems featuring a dynamically adaptive focal length, or tunable Bragg components.

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 Key characteristic of the tunable lens systems is an elastomeric body on the surface, which consists either of especially synthesized, or of commercially available, polymer material. The lens’s body should be transparent in the optically active area around the optical axis (the pupil). The inactive area at the rim of the lens is used for the body’s actuation, which can be driven by electromagnetic or mechanical forces.

The external actuation changes the surface curvature of the lens body and thus helps to adjust the component’s focal length. In opposition to common concepts for tunable lenses, this setup offers a major advantage: the lens is fixed within the system. In consequence, the influence of gravity is reduced significantly, which makes the entire lens system more shock resistant – even under harsh environmental conditions.

The project’s main objective is to guarantee the high optical imaging quality over a range of focal length that is dynamically tunable and can be chosen individually. However, from an industrial point of view, optical quality takes preference over the width of focal length. Keeping this in mind, the researchers focus on imaging quality rather than trying to achieve a maximum tuning range.

A second priority of the project lies in the investigation of multi-layer systems with elastomers (Bragg mirrors and Bragg filters) - in particular those with mechanical actuators. To begin with, the researchers develop new material and methods with which to set up lens systems that incorporate such actuation components (e.g. magnetic anchor pins). In a second step, the findings thereof will lead on to the development of a sample system that features the desired high optical imaging qualities.

These lens systems and Bragg components can be used in lab systems for R&D purposes. 


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