Adaptive Optics: A Prerequisite to Rectify Image Distortion

Adaptive optics systems and components have evolved into sophisticated components which have become integral to traditional applications like that of astronomy and now even in the military. After the passing of millennium, the technology for adaptive optics has expanded beyond the confines of laboratory and have been increasingly used in medicine, manufacturing, and communications.  Adaptive optics is a branch of optics and photonics that employs light-controlling components to actively correct distortion in an incoming image. These distortions can occur when light from an astronomical object passes through the Earth’s atmosphere.

Smaller and low-cost wavefront sensors are poised to facilitate entry and growth of adaptive optics technology in the smaller observatory market thereafter the market which has amateur astronomers as their prime end-users. Moreover, with technological advancements, sensitive detectors are expected to be developed in the future with faster closed-loop correction. This would make adaptive optics effective at progressively smaller wavelengths. Owing to these factors, the global adaptive optics technology market size is expected to witness significant expanse during the next few years.

Research and Development is one of the key drivers for Adaptive Optics

Adaptive optics (AO) is a critical technology for the direct imaging of exoplanets. To this extent UC Santa Cruz has played a leading role in its development. The advantage of AO systems is that it sharpens the images obtained by ground-based telescopes by removing the blurring effects of turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere. Image distortions such as slight misalignments of mirror segments that are introduced by the telescope can also be controlled by AO systems. To this end a multi-university team of astronomers that has been funded by the Heising-Simons Foundation to advance the technologies for a new era of exoplanet direct imaging and spectroscopy, includes a series of related projects to advance adaptive optics technology. This will not only lead to the improvement of the performance of current telescopes but also is essential for giant 30-meter class telescopes.


adaptive optics technology market


Nevertheless, there’s in one limitation with regards to AO i.e. depending on the wavelength, from a few arcsec to a few tens of arcsec, the correction is only valid in a very small patch of sky. To this end Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics, or MCAO, solves this problem by using a series of deformable mirrors to compensate for the turbulence in volume. To this end, in 2018 it was announced that the Australian scientists will lead the design phase of a multimillion-dollar project for a new system on one of the world’s most powerful ground-based optical telescopes which is expected to produce images that are  up to 3 times more sharp than those produced by Hubble Space Telescope. It was announced that the two partners in the Australian Astronomical Optics (AAO) consortium – The Australian National University (ANU, AAO-Stromlo) and Macquarie University (AAO-MQ) will design the new $AU32-million adaptive-optics system, called MAVIS (MCAO Assisted Visible Imager and Spectrograph), for one of the 8-meter Unit Telescopes at the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile.

Further, in an endeavor to establish space-to-ground quantum links that could be used to establish a space-based quantum optical connection between the Caltech-JPL quantum network and quantum networks in labs throughout the U.S, with a potential for industrial testbeds that are globally being developed, in March 2020, it was reported that Caltech and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) are collaborating on the design of a practical field-programmable gate array (FBGA)-based, real-time quantum communications and use the AO  system at JPL’s Table Mountain Facility (TMF) 1-meter telescope to optimize the communication rate, thereby qualifying TMF for future space-ground quantum links using small satellites and other platforms

The growing cognizance of adaptive optics among the defense sector

Headquartered in Longmont, Colorado, and with 32 full-time employees, as well as specializing incoherent beam combining and control, which is regarded as key technologies for future directed-energy laser weapons, Nutronics is working with Montana State University on a volume digital holographic wavefront sensor for adaptive optical compensated imaging, as a part of The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) coordinated by US Small Business Administration. It is a highly competitive program that encourages domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) that has the potential for commercialization. Further, the Air Force Research Laboratory Directed Energy Directorate which is the United States Air Force's center of expertise for directed energy and optical technologies is a world leader in ground-based space imaging that employs adaptive optics with a 3.5-meter telescope and 3.6-meter telescope in Mexico and Hawaii, respectively.

In March 2019, a demonstration of quantum communication, integrating a novel filtering technique enabled by AO was carried out by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Starfire Optical Range (SOR), It is a technology pioneered by SOR in daylight under conditions representative of space-to-Earth satellite links. Moreover, in April 2020, a $35 million contract for three dedicated launches to deliver 44 small satellites to low Earth orbit was awarded to VOX Space, a subsidiary of Virgin Orbit that focuses on the national security launch market as per announcement made by U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center. Under the aegis of experiments covered within the mission of STP-S28 is a satellite called QUEYSSAT, developed by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and the Canadian Department of National Defence.

Healthcare and adaptive optics

In an endeavor to address tissue scattering in an active way Lingjie Kong’s lab at Tsinghua University (Beijing, China) has come up with a comprehensive method that combines an advanced adaptive compensation technique with computation for extended detection. The technique is called hybrid spatio-spectral coherent adaptive compensation (HSSCAC), which is designed to fully correct wavefront distortions in line-scanning temporal focusing microscopy (LTFM). LTFM is potential for providing high-speed imaging concomitant maintaining tight axial confinement. 

Thus, in the light of the aforementioned developments across various sectors the Adaptive Optics Technology Market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 30.73% to reach a value of US$5240.584 million by 2025.