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Diffractive Optics
Above: E-Beam Lithography: The state-of-the-art JEOL JBX 9500FS Electron Beam Lithography System at MDL, which had its first official patterning write initiated in June 2017 by JPL Director, Mike Watkins

Diffractive Optics
Electron Beam Generated Diffractive Optics Components

The Microdevices Laboratory (MDL) develops electron beam lithography techniques to fabricate unique nanostructures and optics with the aim of pushing the state of the art even further and establishing breakthrough technologies that can enable entirely new instrument and observatory architectures.

A variety of JPL flight and research projects rely on MDL’s capability to fabricate special purpose components for both NASA and non-NASA instruments. Lab members have developed nano-patterning processes for fabricating both binary-layered and gray scale surface-relief structures in a variety of polymers, dielectrics, metals, and substrate materials. This allows the creation of nearly arbitrary transmissive and reflective diffractive optics. This includes blazed gratings, lenses and computer-generated holograms for wavelengths ranging from ultraviolet to long-wave infrared. Further, we have developed custom E-beam calibration techniques, substrate-mounting fixtures, and pattern preparation software to allow fabrication of this diffractive optics on non-flat (convex or concave) substrates with up to 10 millimeters of height variation. This has enabled the fabrication of high-performance convex and concave diffraction gratings for Offnerand Dyson-type imaging spectrometers that have been used for many airborne and space borne instruments.

Diffractive Optics

Products & Processes

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: HyTES


The Hyperspectral Thermal Emission Spectrometer (HyTES) is an airborne imaging spectrometer with 256 spectral channels between 7.5 and 12 micrometers in the thermal infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum...

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: PIXL


Led by JPL, Mars 2020 takes the next step in NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, probing the Martian rocks for evidence of past life. The four goals of Mars 2020 are to identify past environments capable of supporting...

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: SHERLOC


The Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals (SHERLOC) is an arm-mounted, Deep UV (DUV) resonance Raman and fluorescence spectrometer...

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: STARSHADE


Up to half the size of a football field, a starshade would journey into space as a companion to a telescope, deploy and unfurl its “petals”, and fly in formation up to 50,000 kilometers away from the telescope to take position in front of a star of interest...

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: WFIRST


The vast majority of exoplanets have been detected indirectly by measuring the gravitational tug on their host stars, or by sensing the dip in brightness of that star as a planet transits across our line of sight...

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: Occulting Masks

Occulting Masks

JPL is developing coronagraph technology to enable direct imaging and spectroscopy of exoplanets using the Astrophysics Focused Telescope Assets (AFTA) on the NASA Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST)...

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: Large Gratings

Large Gratings

The next generation of imaging spectrometers will aim to measure wide swaths of the ground or atmosphere in a single satellite orbit or aircraft flight. This increased swath width requires wide-angle optical systems...

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: E-beam Lithography

E-beam Lithography

Scientists at MDL have developed a deep gray scale electron-beam lithography and plasma etching process for fabricating three-dimensional surface relief profiles in thick polymer resists and silicon substrates...

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: Large Holograms

Large Holograms

Meter-class telescopes comprising adaptive and segmented optics have ushered in a new “golden age” in observational astronomy, and highly light weighted versions of these telescopes for spaceborne applications are under...

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: JWST Occulters

JWST Occulters

MDL completed fabrication of five flight-occulting masks for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) coronagraph. These flight occulters enable detection and characterization of orbiting exoplanets...

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