April 14, 2016

Stellar Echo Imaging of Exoplanets

All stars exhibit intensity fluctuations over several time scales, from nanoseconds to days; these intensity fluctuations echo off planetary bodies in the star system and provide an opportunity to detect and image exoplanets using modern computational imaging techniques.

A mission utilizing distributed-aperture stellar echo detectors could provide continent-level imaging of exoplanets more readily than interferometric techniques, as high temporal resolution detection is less technically challenging and more cost effective than multi-kilometer-baseline fringe-tracking, particularly in a photon-starved regime. The concept is viable for detecting exoplanets at more diverse orbital inclinations than is possible with transit or radial velocity techniques.

Graphic depiction of the Stellar Echo Imaging of Exoplanets using an interferometric technique

Nanohmics, Inc., was founded in 2002 by three scientists with the goal of developing cutting-edge research and transforming it into commercial technology. Over the past decade, our multidisciplinary team has grown to 25 scientists and engineers.

Recently Developed Technologies at Nanohmics

* Anti-Reflective Optical Coating

Nanohmics has developed a process for fabricating an anti-reflective (AR) surface treatment by applying randomly-placed, size-controlled surface relief structures onto infrared windows and lenses. The structures on the surface of the component are smaller than the wavelength of light and provide a refractive index gradient between the air and the medium. This process creates optical windows with improved transmission over 2 octaves of spectrum and with an incident angle of 0°- 65°. The ability to apply this AR treatment to curved surfaces enables its use in complex optical systems. It also provides better laser damage resistance compared to multi-layer dielectrics.


* Argus - Laser Threat Detection Sensor

High Energy Laser weapons are being developed and deployed to disrupt UAS Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions. Our sensor provides real-time identification, characterization and geolocation of laser threats. This information will help determine who is targeting the aircraft, allowing the pilot to deploy the proper countermeasures. Argus can detect and identify both continuous and pulsed High Energy Lasers.

The system contains a small external optical sensor and an interior electrical board assembly. When laser threats are detected, it will send a threat packet to the pilot via the unmanned aircraft system’s existing data network. This information will enable the pilot to determine the type of threat they are facing and what they should do about it. Argus can be installed in either the fuselage or the wings of small to medium sized aircraft.

* Biologics Refrigerator

This active refrigeration unit allows temperature sensitive materials to be transported through environments where users might experience power interruptions. The system features a unique payload area surrounded with phase change material (PCM) to keep the payload at constant temperature. A compressor-based refrigeration system provides active cooling when power is available and directly charges the PCM. Additionally, the payload and PCM are insulated with a high-R-value polyurethane foam.

* Plenoptic Wavefront Sensor

Our passive, extended-scene wavefront sensor was designed to make high dynamic range wavefront distortion measurements using only scene imagery without the assistance of a point-source beacon. When integrated into adaptive optics systems it provides real-time measurement of optical aberrations including misalignment, static optical defects, defocus, and atmospheric turbulence induced aberrations.

Unlike Shack-Hartman sensors, which are positioned at the pupil plane, Nanohmics wavefront sensor is placed in the optical system’s focal plane. Our plenoptic architecture allows the measurement of differential shifts between subaperture images which are then used to calculate the wavefront with high accuracy. This architecture also eliminates the possibility of cross talk between subapertures and provides a large figure dynamic range. Real-time wavefront sensor computations are performed by proprietary software executing on a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU).



SOURCES - Nanohmics, NASA NIAC

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