Demonstration of Adjustable Fluidic Lens in Microgravity

PI: James Schwiegerling, University of Arizona

Adjustable fluidic lenses can provide a variable change in the optical wavefront that passes through them. Most fluidic lens designs operate by changing the amount of fluidic volume in the lens, which causes a change in curvature of an elastic membrane. Fluidic lens technology provides an advantage over traditional glass lenses in their ability to vary focal length and other optical properties. The use of fluidic lenses can reduce the size, weight, and cost of an optical system. The use of fluidic lenses can also eliminate the need for mechanical motion within an optical system, which reduces complexity and risk. Fluidic lens technology adds flexibility to an optical design and has many applications. Several telescope designs have incorporated a fluidic lens to achieve adjustable zoom and field of view. We have created a variable focal length achromatic fluidic lens in the application of telescopic, microscopic, and zoom lens systems.

Technology Areas (?)
  • TA08 Science Instruments, Observations and Sensor Systems
Problem Statement

As a specific commercial application, we have demonstrated a compact optical phoropter using adjustable astigmatic and defocus lenses. This technology is aligned with the TA08 Science Instruments, Observatories and Sensor Systems roadmap. Specifically, a fluidic lens has applications within subcategory 8.1.3 Optical Components.

Technology Maturation

Fluidic lens technology has been successfully demonstrated in the laboratory, and is currently at TRL 4. Theoretically, the lens should perform with the same specifications in zero gravity; however, this has never been tested in a relevant environment. In this project, we plan a single week-long set of four parabolic flights to provide a relevant test environment which will satisfy the exit criteria for TRL 5.

Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    AFO6 (Jun 2013)
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    TRL 4
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 1 Parabolic

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