China Successfully Develops Vital 4 m Diameter Mirror Component
The Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics (CIOMP), Chinese Academy of Sciences, has successfully developed a silicon carbide (SiC) single mirror blank – a vital component for creating a large-scale telescope.
Most modern large optical telescope systems use a reflective structure such as a mirror, which acts like the cornea of the human eye, refracting and focusing light. The larger the aperture of a mirror, the more light can be gathered and the better the resolution of the telescope. CIOMP’s new mirror blank has a diameter of 4.03 m and a resolution three times greater than NASA’s renowned Hubble Telescope.
“If the Hubble Telescope was focused on Earth, it would be barely able to see a dish on a table,” said Zhang Ge, the Director of Changchun Institute of Optics and Advanced Structural Materials Laboratory. “But if it had a 4 m mirror, it could count the number of breadcrumbs on the dish.”
CIOMP’s achievement eclipses the previous published record for SiC-based mirror blanks, which were developed by French researchers. At only 3.5 m diameter, those blanks are only capable of detecting far-infrared light, which is not directly observable by the human eye. Through its research and development, CIOMP has also successfully overcome common issues with SiC-based mirrors, such as deformation and temperature control.
SiC is an internationally recognized high-performance optical reflector material. Through hundreds of experiments and validation steps, the research team at CIOMP spent 6 years independently developing the 4.03 m SiC blank so that it can detect visible light bands, surpassing the previous limit of 1.5 m diameter for a visible-light SiC-based mirror.
The production process contributed to the development of novel preparation technology and equipment that originated in China, along with independent intellectual property rights.
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