Processing of Inflatable Parabolic Reflectors from Polymeric Thin Films

Period of Performance: 03/31/2000 - 12/31/2000


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Physical Sciences, Inc.
Principal Investigator


Physical Sciences Inc. (PSI) will utilize a novel membrane reinforcement method on this proposed Phase I SBIR effort to demonstrate the ability to eliminate shape-related optical aberrations common to polymeric inflatable parabolic reflectors. Hencky model based calculations indicate that reinforcement required to correct the reflector optics are in the 1 micron size range. Conventional reinforcement methods have been unable to provide sizes of this thickness. A new method, pioneered by PSI, will provide circumferential and radial location specific reinforcement of the membrane by generating and then bonding small diameter (100 to 3000 nm) polymeric fibers directly to the thin membrane in sequential steps. The locations of the reinforcement of the membrane before inflation will be derived from a Finite Element Analysis (FEA) model of the parabolic surface based upon mechanical properties of the polymer membrane, the Henke model of inflatable membranes and optical measurements of the inflated membrane reflector. The optical measurements provide the specifics of the geometric aberrations. PSI will demonstrate the ability to accurately and inexpensively correct optical aberrations of inflatable parabolic reflectors using the newly developed method. Low cost, inflatable, optically accurate reflectors would find a market as solar energy concentrators, very large research grade telescopes, inexpensive amateur telescopes, and for use as stowable emergency antennas. Significant weight reduction for communications satellite dishes could also be realized.