Automatic design of freeform optics is within reach

June 23, 2021
A result-diversified automatic design method could pave the way to fully automatic optical design.

Researchers at Tsinghua University in China have developed an automatic technique that could enhance the speed and effect of optical design. Until now, optical design without human guidance has been deemed impossible by many.

Led by Jun Zhu, a professor in the Department of Precision Instruments at Tsinghua, the study found that three-mirror freeform imaging systems can be obtained automatically; these have various structures and diffraction-limited imaging qualities, the researchers say. The approach—a result-diversified automatic design method for freeform optics—can automatically distribute optical power among the mirrors in the system and search for various structure forms in a three-mirror system. In the study, the researchers also discovered the system can provide “a variety of high-quality system designs simultaneously by a coarse search on the solution space and can also focus on specific designs by a fine search on the localized solution space.” A grid search by this method was found to be scalable and suitable for parallel computing acceleration. And according to the researchers, “optimization will only improve the system that is given to it and this system largely influences the optimization result.”

The new technique helps the designer to determine the optical specifications and constraints, considering factors such as manufacturability and system structure. This can then be entered into the computer and wait for the results to be outputted. The work will also allow the designer to analyze multiple optical systems and select the final design. Reference: Jun Zhu et al., Light: Sci. Appl. (2021);

About the Author

Justine Murphy | Senior Editor

Justine Murphy is a multiple award-winning writer and editor with more 20 years of experience in newspaper publishing as well as public relations, marketing, and communications. For nearly 10 years, she has covered all facets of the optics and photonics industry as an editor, writer, web news anchor, and podcast host for an internationally reaching magazine publishing company. Her work has earned accolades from the New England Press Association as well as the SIIA/Jesse H. Neal Awards. She received a B.A. from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

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