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July 31, 2019 at 10:30am
Ph.D. Thesis Defense
Next-generation imaging systems for consumer electronics, AR/VR, and space telescopes require weight, size, and cost reduction while maintaining high optical performance. Freeform optics with rotationally asymmetric surface geometries condense the tasks of several spherical optics onto a single element. They are currently fabricated by ultraprecision sub-aperture tools like diamond turning and magnetorheological finishing, but the final surfaces contain mid-spatial-frequency tool marks and form errors which fall outside optical tolerances. Therefore, there remains a need for disruptive tools to generate optic-quality freeform surfaces.
This thesis work investigates a high precision, flexible, non-contact methodology for optics polishing using femtosecond ultrafast lasers. Femtosecond lasers enable ablation-based material removal on substrates with widely different optical properties owing to their high GW-TW/cm2 peak intensities. For polishing, it is imperative for the laser to precisely remove material while minimizing the onset of detrimental thermal and structural surface artifacts such as melting and oxidation. However, controlling the laser interaction is a non-trivial task due to the competing influence of nonthermal melting, ablation, electron/lattice thermalization, heat accumulation, and thermal melting phenomena occurring on femtosecond to microsecond timescales.
Femtosecond laser-material interaction was investigated from the fundamental theoretical and experimental standpoints to determine a methodology for optic-quality polishing of optical / photonic materials. Numerical heat accumulation and two-temperature models were constructed to simulate femtosecond laser processing and predict material-specific laser parameter combinations capable of achieving ablation with controlled thermal impact. A tunable femtosecond laser polishing system was established. Polishing of germanium substrates was successfully demonstrated using the model-determined laser parameters, achieving controllable material removal while maintaining optical surface quality. The established polishing technique opens a viable path for sub-aperture, optic quality finishing of optical / photonic materials, capable of scaling up to address complex polishing tasks towards freeform optics fabrication.