Guiding Laser Light with Thousands of Tiny Mirrors

A single fabricated hexagonal micromirror.

A single fabricated hexagonal micromirror.

March 12, 2018 | Source: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Science and Technology Review, str.llnl.gov, September 2017

An array of thousands of constantly moving hexagonal mirrors, each measuring just 1 millimeter square, could one day enable a host of cutting-edge applications, from self-driving cars and laser-based communication and manufacturing to advanced microscopes and telescopes. The Livermore micromirror array delivers an unprecedented combination of capabilities, including tight control of every mirror’s three degrees of freedom—tip, tilt, and piston (up-and-down) motions. The result is significant improvement in the speed and precision with which the mirrors reflect and guide light.

Livermore engineer Bob Panas is principal investigator of the Light-field Directing Array Program, which developed the micromirrors. Panas explains, “This technology, which excels at controlling and directing light, is based on microscale structures for controlling arrays of miniature mirrors. This approach promises motion that is faster, greater in range, and more accurate than technologies currently on the market can deliver. New technologies like ours are needed to replace slow, expensive, and bulky conventional instruments."