Free space optical communications (FSO) are beginning to provide attractive alternatives to fiber-based solutions in many situations. Currently, a handful of companies provide fiberless alternatives especially aimed at corporate intranet and sporting event video. These solutions are geared toward solving the 'last mile' connectivity issues. There exists a potential need to extend this pathlength to distances much greater than a 1 km, particularly for government and military applications. For cases of long distance optical propagation, atmospheric turbulence will ultimately limit the maximum achievable data rate. In this paper, we propose a method of improved signal quality through the use of adaptive optics. In particular, we show work in progress toward a high-speed, small footprint Adaptive Optics system for horizontal and slant path laser communications. Such a system relies heavily on recent progress in Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) deformable mirrors as well as improved communication and computational components.
We introduce a wave-optics based simulation code written to model a complete free space laser communications link, including a detailed model of an adaptive optics compensation system. We present the results obtained by this model, where the phase of a communications laser beam is corrected, after it propagates through a turbulent atmosphere. The phase of the received laser beam is measured using a Shack-Hartmann wavefront sensor, and the correction method utilizes a MEMS mirror. Strehl improvement and amount of power coupled to the receiving fiber results for both 1 km horizontal and 28 km slant paths will be presented.
We have developed a high-resolution wavefront control system based on an optically addressed nematic liquid crystal spatial light modulator with several hundred thousand phase control points, a Shack-Hartmann wavefront sensor with two thousand subapertures, and an efficient reconstruction algorithm using Fourier transform techniques. We present quantitative results of experiments to characterize the performance of this system.
Proc. SPIE. 4118, Parallel and Distributed Methods for Image Processing IV
KEYWORDS: Human-machine interfaces, Digital signal processing, Resonators, Computing systems, Wavefront sensors, Wavefronts, Adaptive optics, Control systems, Deformable mirrors, Control systems design
Sustained operation of high average power solid-state lasers currently requires an adaptive resonator to produce the optimal beam quality. We describe the architecture of a real-time adaptive control system for correcting intra-cavity aberrations in a heat capacity laser. Image data collected from a wavefront sensor are processed and used to control phase with a high-spatial-resolution deformable mirror. Our controller takes advantage of recent developments in low-cost, high-performance processor technology. A desktop-based computational engine and object- oriented software architecture replaces the high-cost rack-mount embedded computers of previous systems.
Liquid crystal spatial light modulator technology appropriate for high-resolution wavefront control has recently become commercially available. Some of these devices have several hundred thousand controllable degrees of freedom, more than two orders of magnitude greater than the largest conventional deformable mirror. We will present results of experiments to characterize the optical properties of these devices and to utilize them to correct aberrations in an optical system. We will also present application scenarios for these devices in high-power laser systems.
We have developed a Ti:sapphire/Nd:glass laser system which produces > 1.25 PW peak power. An irradiance of 1020 - 1021 W/cm2 is achieved utilizing an on-axis parabolic mirror, with adaptive optic wavefront correction. Experimental results will be described.
The laser wavefront of the NIF Beamlet demonstration system is corrected for static aberrations with a wavefront control system. The system operates closed loop with a probe beam prior to a shot and has a loop bandwidth of about 3 Hz. However, until recently the wavefront control system was disabled several minutes prior to the shot to allow time to manually reconfigure its attenuators and probe beam insertion mechanism to shot mode. Thermally-induced dynamic variations in gas density in the Beamlet main beam line produce significant wavefront error.
Using adaptive optics we have obtained nearly diffraction-limited 5 kJ, 3 nsec output pulses at 1.053 micrometer from the Beamlet demonstration system for the National Ignition Facility (NIF). The peak Strehl ratio was improved from 0.009 to 0.50, as estimated from measured wavefront errors. We have also measured the relaxation of the thermally induced aberrations in the main beam line over a period of 4.5 hours. Peak-to-valley aberrations range from 6.8 waves at 1.053 micrometer within 30 minutes after a full system shot to 3.9 waves after 4.5 hours. The adaptive optics system must have enough range to correct accumulated thermal aberrations from several shots in addition to the immediate shot-induced error. Accumulated wavefront errors in the beam line will affect both the design of the adaptive optics system for NIF and the performance of that system.
We are developing an adaptive optics system that is based on an array of actuators arranged with subapertures that are equilateral triangles. The wavefront sensor is a video Hartmann sensor that also uses an equilateral array of lenslets. The controller hardware uses a VME bus. The design minimizes the generation of reflected wavefronts higher than first order across each lenslet for large excursions of actuators from positions where the mirror is flat and, thus maximizes the precision of the slopes measured by the Hartmann sensor. The design is also immune to the waffle mode that is present in the reconstructors of adaptive optics systems where actuators are arranged in a square array.
This paper describes the design and performance of an automated, closed-loop, laser beam alignment system. Its function is to sense a beam alignment error in a laser beam transport system and automatically steer mirrors preceding the sensor location as required to maintain beam alignment. The laser beam is sampled by an optomechanical package which uses video cameras to sense pointing and centering errors. The camera outputs are fed to an image processing module, which includes video digitizers and uses image storage and software to sense the centroid of the image. Signals are sent through a VMEbus to an "optical device controller" (ODC), which drives stepper-motor actuators on mirror mounts preceding the beamsampling location to return the beam alignment to the prescribed condition. Photodiodes are also used to extend the control bandwidth beyond that which is achievable with video cameras. This system has been operated at LLNL in the Atomic Vapor Laser Isotope Separation (AVLIS) program to maintain the alignment of copper and dye laser beams, the latter to within tr in pointing and less than 1 mm in centering. The optomechanical design of the instrumented package, which includes lens, mirror, and video mounts in a rigid housing, the automated control system architecture, and the performance of this equipment is described.