UK team build first E-ELT prototype mirror

The group are the first to produce a successful prototype mirror segment for ESO

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Credit: Glyndwr University

The University team have achieved a milestone in optics manufacturing


Scientists from Glyndwr University, North Wales have received a resounding thumbs up from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) after successfully manufacturing a prototype mirror segment for the observatory’s European-Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) project.

The University team are the first to adhere to ESO’s strict specifications, having developed the only ESO approved method to manufacture the E-ELT’s mirror segments and, at the same time, becoming the first group in history to polish a ‘straight’ edge on a hexagonal optic.

“The role of the Glyndwr process, which uniquely polishes a segment to the full aperture, is of interest to both those companies who have traditionally polished large telescope optics as well as prospective new entrants to this exciting market,” said Glyndwr University’s Mike Parry-Jones.

Once built, ESO’s £900million leviathan will be the largest optical telescope in the world, 39 metres in diameter and made up of 798 mirror segments. And with the E-ELT’s construction still in the planning phase, the Glyndwr University team are in a prime position to secure a lucrative manufacturing contract.

The group is now in talks with potential project partners with the hope of securing a £200m contract to produce all of the E-ELT’s primary mirror segments.

Project Manager Tony Fox-Leonard believes the University’s recent breakthroughs could pave the way for a resurgence in the UK’s optics manufacturing industry, “The manufacture of this optic represents a return of large optics manufacturing capability to the UK after an absence of more than several generations.”


 

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