Compliant Mechanisms Article

An excellent article on compliant mechanisms related to optical systems in the November 2013 edition of Nasa Tech Briefs.

This article discusses the ability to use AMCs (amorphous metal composites) for compliant mechanisms in place of typically used Aluminum and Titanium alloys.  Since these composites can be customized for material properties needed in an optomechanical design or other application, the design can be optimized for specific applications.  This can be critical for space based optical systems or aerospace systems.

Bulk Metallic Glasses and Composites for Optical and Compliant Mechanisms

Friday, 01 November 2013
This work was done by Douglas C. Hofmann and Gregory S. Agnes of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact   Reference 

NPO-48768, Volume 37 Issue No. 11

    Innovative Technology Assets Management
   JPL    Pasadena, CA 91109-8099

SPIE currently has this article n the James Webb Space Telescope set to open access.  The JWST is an amazing work of engineering and optomechanical design.  This telescope has not yet launched into space, but when it does it will provide unparalleled infrared images.


“James Webb Space Telescope: large deployable cryogenic telescope in space”

Opt. Eng. 51(1), 011003 (Feb 03, 2012). doi:10.1117/1.OE.51.1.011003
History: Received June 30, 2011; Revised September 17, 2011; Accepted September 26,2011
The article goes into great detail behind the optomechanics of the telescope, and the image shown here is an amazing example of the kinematic design that goes into makiing an ultrastable lightweight mirror assembly.

Quantum Information Processing

Quantum Information Processing takes a step closer to being an applied technology:

Posted by Gail Overton
Senior Editor

Quantum Switch, From Laser Focus World

Quantum Switch, From Laser Focus World

Additive manufacturing of smart metallic structures | SPIE Newsroom: SPIE

Ultrasonic welding process that joins dissimilar metals.  Article from

The massive natural optomechanical device, the Icecube Neutrino Observatory

With all of the incredible telescopes that have been put into orbit over the past few decades it hard to imagine and earth based telescope that can inspire as much amazement and wonder from the outside observer or stimulate the interest of the public on the same level.  However, in 2010, the development of the “IceCube Neutrino Observatory” was completed after almost  two decades of conceptual design and planning.  This is the ultimate optomechanical device. Most of the optomechanics were performed by mother nature – an enormous section of ice.  The civil engineering and electronics was then the key engineering aspect that had to be conceptualized, planned and executed to create this amazing piece of technology.
  This device is a gigantic slice out of the Antarctic ice shelf, that has been fitted with arrays of sensors going very deep into the depths of ice in order to setup an array of detectors that can sense the very faint, and very fast “weak interactions” that take place when neutrino particles strike another particle of matter.
The probability of a particle interaction taking place as a neutrino passes through the Earth, is relatively low, therefore, the larger the sensor used to detect particle collisions, the higher the probability that these interactions can be observed.  This is why the massive scale of this project is so important.  The section of ice used for this Antarctic observatory is a 1 cubic kilometer of ice, buried deep at the south pole to reduce background noise and signals that can interfere with detections.
A neutrino is a particle that was first conceptualized by Wolfgang Pauli in the early 1930’s as an explanation for the energy that appeared to be “missing” or was unaccounted for in the slow nuclear decay.  Another source of neutrinos comes from fusion reactions such as those that occur at the center of stars.  The IceCube can then be used to detect not only the neutrinos that might happen to come from our own sun, but can be used to detect neutrinos from other far off stellar objects.
This project is an amazing example of how people and organizations from an array of countries, disciplines and interests can come together to make something great.  The list consists of over 40 instittuions hailing from 12 countries.   
For more information follow some of our References and Links of Interest:
Aartsen, M.,  Abbasi, R.,  Abdou, Y.,  Ackermann, M.,  Adams, J.,  Aguilar, J., Ahlers, M,  “Evidence for high-energy extraterrestrial neutrinos at the IceCube detector”, Science 342, 2013.  doi:10.1126/science.1242856
Official Website at University of Wisconsin –  Madison:
Tech Stuff podcast from
What is the IceCube Neutrino Detector? Jonathan and Lauren take a look at a telescope that’s one mile under the ice at the South Pole.
More on other amazing optomechanical devices and telescopes:  “NASA invites the public to help find young planetary systems in data from the agency’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission.”
Work in Progress:
James Webb Space Telescope, expected launch in 2018


The evolution of mirrors for imaging from space, By Gary Matthews of Exelis

Curious about how the satellite images we see on television, weather forecasts, google maps, and other satelitte imaging? : SPIE Newsroom : Gary Matthews: The evolution of mirrors for imaging from space.

Gary Matthews explains the evolution of space grade mirrors and their technology on SPIE TV. SPIE is the Society of Photonics and Instrumentation Engineers, and their much anticipated Photonics West begins February 1.

Optical Design & Engineering

Gary Matthews: The evolution of mirrors for imaging from space

Key components for many of earth-observation satellites and the major ground- and space-based telescopes have been designed and manufactured by Exelis.

16 January 2014, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.3201401.01

Taylor & Francis Online: Heat Transfer Engineering – Volume 35, Issue 11-12

Taylor & Francis Online :: Heat Transfer Engineering – Volume 35, Issue 11-12. Special Issue: Selected Papers Presented at the Fourth International Symposium on Heat Transfer and Energy Conservation (ISHTEC2012), January 6-9, 2012, Guangzhou, China

Optomechanical Engineering and Microfluidics

The Bahl Research Group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is integrating optomechanics and microfluidics.  They were recently featured in Optics & Photonics News December issue:

“Bridging two worlds: Microfluidic optomechanics”


More information on their  research:


Bahl Research Group
Mechanical Science and Engineering
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Happy New Year 2014

A look back at vintage optomechanical design to start the new year. A classic optomechanical product in this consumer grade camera, the Polaroid SX-70 Rainbow.  As everyone born before 1999 probably knows, its most amazing feature is the ability to provide instant photos, which drove its “high price” of about $180 (in 1970’s dollars).  This camera was on the market in the mid-70s but can still be found for sale if you search hard enough…and there are companies that have begun to manufacture film for these cameras.  A classic product from one of the leading innovators of film and products in the 60’s and 70’s.


SX-70 Rainbow Land Camera, image courtesy of

Mars Curiosity optomechanical devices

There are many optomechanical sensors and instruments aboard the Curiosity rover.  All of these devices had to be designed for the acceleration and vibration of launch as well as the vibration of entry into the Mars atmosphere and then the shock experienced at touchdown.   The design then must be implemented to additionally perform under the extremely cold temperatures at the Martian surface.  An additional design requirement is to make everything as light weight as possible.  All of these factors make for a very challenging product design.  The designers of the rover itself often are praised, which is a well deserved accolade.  Often unheard of and behind the scenes are the designers, program managers and engineers developing the sub-components and instruments of the rover.  Optomechanical devices are the main ingredient to an impressive suite of sensors and instruments aboard the rover.