ESA's Optical Ground Station Credit: ESA

Optomechanics can refer to:

  • Cavity optomechanics, the sub-field of physics which according to wikipedia “involves the study of the interaction of electromagnetic radiation (photons) with mechanical systems via radiation pressure”
  • Optomechanical components: off-the-shelf mechanical components such as mirror mounts, lens mounts, translation stages, rotary stages, fibre aligners, rails, pedestals, posts, kinematic mounts, fine-adjustment screws.
  • Optomechanical engineering is according to Paul Yoder Jr: “the sub-discipline of optical engineering in which optics such as lenses, mirrors, and prisms are integrated into mechanical structures (cells, housings, trusses,etc.) so as to form an optical instrument. The design for a typical optical instrument results primarily from the cooperative efforts of a team of lens designers, optical engineers, and mechanical engineers. They seek and apply input from experts in fabrication, assembly, alignment, and testing as well as from specialists on light sources, film, detectors, focal plane arrays, electronics, signal processing, and so on that might be used in the instrument.  involving the design and manufacture of precision mechanisms for optics and scientific instrumentation”, most often in the following fields :
  1. Telescopes and astronomical instrumentation
  2. Particle accelerators
  3. Spacecraft engineering
  4. Manufacturing in the semi-conductor industry
  5. Other optical and scientific instruments

Optomechanical engineering usually requires working within the following constraints:

  1. Clean-room environment (cleanroom, vacuum chamber or cryostat,  space)
  2. Low temperature (cryogenics) and large temperature ranges, dealing with materials’ different thermal expansion
  3. Vacuum environment
  4. High precision (micrometer/nanometer scale)

And most often makes use of the following technological solutions:

  1. Flexure-based linear or rotary motion mechanisms (instead of friction-based)
  2. Low-CTE materials / controlled expansion materials / specialty alloys
  3. Space-grade materials and low outgassing materials or adhesives, materials space-qualified by NASA or ESA
  4. Kinematic stages or mounts

 

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