First fringes with an integrated-optics beam combiner at 10 μm
A new step towards instrument miniaturization for mid-infrared interferometry
Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, C/ Via Lactea s/n, La Laguna, 38200 Tenerife, Spain
2 UJF-Grenoble 1/CNRS-INSU, Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble (IPAG) UMR 5274, 38041 Grenoble, France
3 Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, 902 Battelle Boulevard, PO Box 999, Richland, 99352 Washington, USA
4 Departamento de Astrofisica, Universidad de La Laguna, 38205 La Laguna, Tenerife, Islas Canarias, Spain
5 I. Physikalisches Institut, Universität zu Köln, Zülpicher Str. 77, 50937 Köln, Germany
Received: 15 February 2011
Accepted: 12 April 2011
Context. Observations of milliarcsecond-resolution scales and high dynamic range hold a central place in the exploration of distant planetary systems in order to achieve, for instance, the spectroscopic characterization of exo-Earths or the detailed mapping of their protoplanetary disc birthplace. Multi-aperture infrared interferometry, either from the ground or from space, is a very powerful technique to tackle these goals. However, significant technical efforts still need to be undertaken to achieve a simplification of these instruments if we wish to recombine the light from a large number of telescopes. Integrated-optics concepts appear to be a suitable alternative to the current conventional designs, especially if their use can be extended to a higher number of astronomical bands.
Aims. This article reports, for the first time to our knowledge, the experimental demonstration of the feasibility of an integrated-optics approach to mid-infrared beam combination for single-mode stellar interferometry.
Methods. We fabricated a two-telescope beam combiner prototype integrated on a substrate of chalcogenide glass, a material transparent from ~1 μm to ~14 μm. We developed laboratory tools to characterize in the mid-infrared the modal properties and the interferometric capabilities of our device.
Results. We obtain interferometric fringes at 10 μm and measure a mean contrast V = 0.981 ± 0.001 with high repeatability over one week and high stability over a time-period of ~5 h. We show experimentally – as well as on the basis of modeling considerations – that the component has a single-mode behavior at this wavelength, which is essential to achieve high-accuracy interferometry. From previous studies, the propagation losses are estimated to be 0.5 dB/cm for this type of component. We also discuss possible issues that may impact the interferometric contrast.
Conclusions. The IO beam combiner performs well at the tested wavelength. We also anticipate the requirement of a closer matching between the numerical apertures of the component and the (de)coupling optics to optimize the total throughput. The next step foreseen is the achievement of wide-band interferograms.
Key words: instrumentation: high angular resolution / instrumentation: interferometers / methods: laboratory / techniques: interferometric
© ESO, 2011