Development and Verification of the non-linear Curvature Wavefront Sensor
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractAdaptive optics (AO) systems have become an essential part of ground-based telescopes and enable diffraction-limited imaging at near-IR and mid-IR wavelengths. For several key science applications the required wavefront quality is higher than what current systems can deliver. For instance obtaining high quality diffraction-limited images at visible wavelengths requires residual wavefront errors to be well below 100 nm RMS. High contrast imaging of exoplanets and disks around nearby stars requires high accuracy control of low-order modes that dominate atmospheric turbulence and scatter light at small angles where exoplanets are likely to be found. Imaging planets using a high contrast corona graphic camera, as is the case for the Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet Research (SPHERE) on the Very Large Telescope (VLT), and the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), requires even greater wavefront control accuracy. My dissertation develops a highly sensitive non-linear Curvature Wavefront Sensor (nlCWFS) that can deliver diffraction-limited (λ/D) images, in the visible, by approaching the theoretical sensitivity limit imposed by fundamental physics. The nlCWFS is derived from the successful curvature wavefront sensing concept but uses a non-linear reconstructor in order to maintain sensitivity to low spatial frequencies. The nlCWFS sensitivity makes it optimal for extreme AO and visible AO systems because it utilizes the full spatial coherence of the pupil plane as opposed to conventional sensors such as the Shack-Hartmann Wavefront Sensor (SHWFS) which operate at the atmospheric seeing limit (λ/r₀). The difference is equivalent to a gain of (D/r₀)² in sensitivity, for the lowest order mode, which translates to the nlCWFS requiring that many fewer photons. When background limited the nlCWFS sensitivity scales as D⁴, a combination of D² gain due to the diffraction limit and D² gain due to telescope's collecting power. Whereas conventional wavefront sensors only benefit from the D² gain due to the telescope's collecting power. For a 6.5 m telescope, at 0.5 μm, and seeing of 0.5", the nlCWFS can deliver for low order modes the same wavefront measurement accuracy as the SHWFS with 1000 times fewer photons. This is especially significant for upcoming extremely large telescopes such as the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) which has a 25.4 m aperture, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) and the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) which has a 39 m aperture.
Degree ProgramGraduate College