OSL channels photons from deep space

Space research benefits from high performance channel plates.

Selected for their expertise in manufacturing complex optics, Optical Surfaces Ltd. has been the key subcontractor to Photonis SAS (Brive, France) for profiling and polishing batches of high-precision microchannel plate blanks which have been used in a series of space research projects.

For many years, Photonis has been the leading supplier of microchannel plate devices for the NASA and ESA (European Space Administration) space research community. Microchannel plates form part of Photonis’ core business of design, development and production of devices for detecting and amplifying very low levels of radiation. In tight co-operation with space science laboratories worldwide (Berkeley, California and Leicester, UK), new plate versions are developed for forthcoming NASA and ESA missions.

Drawing upon considerable expertise in manufacturing high-precision optics and over 20 years co-operation with Photonis, Optical Surfaces Ltd. has be enable to develop the proprietary production techniques that deliver the required ultra-high precision surface finish to plates in batch quantities.

Large square or complex shaped plates offer particular production challenges including maintaining tight control of the physical dimensions (thickness and parallelism) and also avoiding staining that is easily introduced during the polishing process.

Looking out into the universe, the microchannel plate picks up UV or X-ray photons from distant constellations of galaxies, transferring the photon image into an amplified electron image that can be analysed by the spacecraft computer.

The combination of high efficiency of design, manufacture and polishing have made microchannel plates from Photonis SAS/Optical Surfaces Ltd. the preferred detector element in single-photon UV and X-ray space imaging.