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Optical component and systems developer Optical Surfaces Ltd. has received an order from the U.K. Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) for 12 ultrafast focusing, 370-mm diameter aspheric lenses for its Orion petawatt laser research facility.
The work of AWE spans the life cycle of nuclear warheads, from concept and design to 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 and 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 Earth.
This is a repeat order, doubling down on key focusing elements supplied by Optical Surfaces to AWE in 2008. Replacement of the original lenses is required as coatings and lens material gets damaged over time due to the high energy density of the Orion laser.
“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,” said Aris Kouris, sales director of Optical Surfaces. “The greatest challenge in producing these ultrasmooth 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.”
Optical Surfaces specializes in large optics, beam expanders, collimators, prototypes, custom systems, and optics. The AWE is responsible for the design, manufacture, and support of warheads for the U.K.’s nuclear weapons.READ MORE