Saturday Space Sight: Next-generation Microshutter Array Technology

NASA technologists have hurdled a number of significant challenges in their quest to improve a revolutionary observing technology originally created for the James Webb Space Telescope.

This image shows a close-up view of the next-generation microshutter arrays — designed to accommodate the needs of future observatories — during the fabrication process.

microshutter_closeup

Determined to make the Webb telescope’s microshutter technology more broadly available, a team of technologists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center spent the past four years experimenting with techniques to advance this capability.

One of the first things the team did was eliminate the magnet that sweeps over the shutter arrays to activate them, replacing it with electrostatic actuation. Just as significant is the voltage needed to actuate the arrays. By last year, the team had achieved a major milestone by activating the shutters with just 30 volts.

The team used atomic layer deposition, a state-of-the-art fabrication technology, to fully insulate the tiny space between the electrodes to eliminate potential electrical crosstalk that could interfere with the arrays’ operation. They also applied a very thin anti-stiction coating to prevent the shutters from sticking when opened.

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Hrybyk

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  • Laurence Bloxham

    Great! What are the specs?