Industry News: Challenging Aspheric Lenses for Nuclear Research

03 Sep 2018

Optical Surfaces Ltd announces that it has received an order from the UK Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) for twelve ultra-fast focusing 370mm diameter aspheric lenses for its Orion petawatt laser research facility.

World-class expertise and cutting-edge science, engineering and technology lie at the heart of AWE work, spanning the life cycle of nuclear warheads from initial concept and design, to final decommissioning and disposal.

The Orion laser facility is used to conduct research into high energy density physics phenomena, which occur at the heart of a nuclear explosion or the interior of a star. Orion is used to generate matter many times denser than solid, similar to that found at the center of a giant planet such as Jupiter. At temperatures in excess of 10 million degrees, Orion can replicate conditions found at the center of the Sun. These phenomena cannot be found anywhere else on planet Earth.

The order is a repeat order for the key focusing elements supplied by Optical Surfaces Ltd to AWE in 2008. Replacement of the original lenses is required as coatings and lens material gets damaged over time due to very high energy density of the Orion laser.

Dr Aris Kouris, Sales director at Optical Surfaces Ltd commented “We are very pleased to again be selected by AWE to supply the replacement fast focusing aspheric lenses that lie at the heart of their Orion petawatt laser facility”. He added “The greatest challenge in producing these ultra-smooth optics relates mostly with the high asphericity of the lenses, arising from the short focal length required. The short focal length not only enables AWE to use a relatively compact vacuum chamber for its experiments but also to achieve a very high energy density at the point of focus. This high asphericity also imposes an additional difficulty in controlling the demanding requirements associated with the lens wavefront gradients specification.