Developing expertise in the field of astrophotonics
The first contacts with astrophysicists at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics (AIP) in Potsdam date back to 2008/2009, when the first VIRUS fibre bundle prototypes for the HETDEX project were designed, developed and elaborately handcrafted there.
Already at that time, various suppliers in the fibre optics industry were qualified to ensure the later series production for the many required fibre bundles. During this time, I already manufactured the first prototypes and sample bundles for the fibre evaluation - at that time still at my former employer - and used the corresponding experience from fibre optic production.
In 2012, the need arose at the AIP in Potsdam for its own production line, in order to expand the capacities there by the possibilities for production and also for partially necessary reworking of delivered VIRUS fibre bundles. This gave me, as a service provider, the opportunity to build up these production capacities at the AIP and to develop the necessary technologies for high-quality end surface polishing.
Subsequently, some bundles were set up and tested to qualify the developed manufacturing processes. Due to the close cooperation and productive feedback from colleagues at the AIP, very good results were achieved immediately.
From 2013 to 2016, about 20 of the elaborate VIRUS bundles in lengths between 18 and 25m could thus be produced and delivered to the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) in Texas after successful verification by the AIP.
Due to the high quality and reliability achieved, I was entrusted with the execution of further orders. Thus, in close cooperation, further fibre beams for special experiments of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Texas in Austin were designed and built for use at the HET. In 2016, I was able to work on setting up the fibre processing workspace in Austin. The necessary technologies for the construction and repair of VIRUS bundles were implemented.
Subsequently, fibre optic bundles were also needed for other experiments at HET. In 2017, the Department of Astronomy at Penn State University contracted me to fabricate fibre optics for the Habitable Zone Planet Finder (HPF) at HET.
This was followed in 2018 by the design and manufacture of several fibre optics for the exoplanet-hunting instrument NEID for the WIYN telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory of the Department of Astronomy at Penn State University.