Integrated Optics for Nulling Interferometry in the Thermal Infrared
M Barillot, E Barthelemy, J Broquin, J Frayret, J Grelin, G J Hawkins, V Kirschner, G Parent, A Pradel, E Rossi, C Vigreux, S Zhang, X Zhang
Proc. SPIE 7013-38, Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation, Optical and Infrared Interferometry (2008)
Modal filtering is based on the capability of single-mode waveguides to transmit only one complex amplitude function to eliminate virtually any perturbation of the interfering wavefronts, thus making very high rejection ratios possible in a nulling interferometer. In the present paper we focus on the progress of Integrated Optics in the thermal infrared [6-20µm] range, one of the two candidate technologies for the fabrication of Modal Filters, together with fibre optics. In conclusion of the European Space Agency's (ESA) "Integrated Optics for Darwin" activity, etched layers of chalcogenide material deposited on chalcogenide glass substrates was selected among four candidates as the technology with the best potential to simultaneously meet the filtering efficiency, absolute and spectral transmission, and beam coupling requirements. ESA's new "Integrated Optics" activity started at mid-2007 with the purpose of improving the technology until compliant prototypes can be manufactured and validated, expectedly by the end of 2009. The present paper aims at introducing the project and the components requirements and functions. The selected materials and preliminary designs, as well as the experimental validation logic and test benches are presented. More details are provided on the progress of the main technology: vacuum deposition in the co-evaporation mode and subsequent etching of chalcogenide layers. In addition, preliminary investigations of an alternative technology based on burying a chalcogenide optical fibre core into a chalcogenide substrate are presented. Specific developments of anti-reflective solutions designed for the mitigation of Fresnel losses at the input and output surface of the components are also introduced.