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High Performance Consumer-Affordable Nanocomposite Mirrors with Supersmooth Surfaces, Precise Figuring, and Innovative 3D Printed Structures, Phase I

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Lightweight Telescopes, Inc. (LWT) proposes to advance the TRL, demonstrate performance, and initiate commercialization of nanocomposite optics technology (NCOT). This new technology is based on carbon nanotubes (CNT), assorted powders and fibers, polymers, and proprietary processes to craft precisely shaped and supersmooth UVOIR optical surfaces. The fabrication of optical quality mirrors based on CNTs embedded in an epoxy matrix (CNT/E) has already been demonstrated1 and is being patented by LWT. It is proposed that, with the infusion of advanced numerical modeling and state-of-the-art 3D printing techniques, NCOT can become an enabling technology for future space telescopes (and missions) by virtue of its many unprecedented capabilities. NCOT, unlike other space optics, is truly low cost in that the mirrors are affordable to consumers. Additional capabilities include rapid fabrication, supersmooth surfaces, multiple identical units, very large apertures, low density material, 'smart' optics, smart structures, athermal telescopes, and in situ fabrication of very large aperture (Deca- and Hexa-meter class) optics on the ground and in space. This proposal seeks to advance development of nanocomposite optics technology by augmenting LWT's proven techniques and processes with better tooling and test equipment, numerical design of novel structures that maximize stiffness/mass ratio, and 3D printing assisted fabrication. Specific objectives of this Phase I proposal are to design and fabricate state-of-the-art 25 cm mirrors, and to fabricate, field test, and commercialize 15 cm mirror telescopes. More »

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