Applied Optics Group
03 May 2011



Optical systems lie at the core of all astronomical instrumentation.




Working from the science requirements, the Applied Optics Group develop initial optical designs using a mix of established and innovative solutions before producing detailed optical designs in collaboration primarily with the Mechanical Engineering Group. Optical design is carried out mainly using Zemax (for basic optical design and sequential ray tracing analysis) and TracePro (for non-sequential raytracing).

Other tools used include:

  • CodeV (sequential and non-sequential ray tracing)
  • ASAP (comprehensive optical modelling and analysis software)
  • GLAD (physical optics analysis)

These are used to design and optimise optical systems, provide comprehensive analysis of optical systems (tolerancing, throughput, stray light, ghosts images etc.) and produce detailed component specifications.

The group also has the ability to carry out detailed opto-mechanical analysis, taking the results of mechanical FEA analysis (e.g. thermal deformation, gravitational flexure, self weight deformation, etc) and calculating the effect on the optical system (on parameters such as image quality, wavefront error, boresight shift, etc).

The Group has no internal manufacturing capability but plenty of experience in managing external suppliers. The test capabilities of the Group include an extensive range of precision measuring equipment such as interferometers, CCD cameras, microscopes, alignment telescopes and autocollimators which are used to test and align the optical systems and sub-systems. The group also has extensive experience in the design and construction of dedicated optical test gear for specific instruments. The UK ATC has a dedicated Optics Laboratory and a range of clean room facilities

Over the years the group have gained extensive experience of both telescope systems and instruments for space and ground applications at wavelengths from the visible to the sub-millimetre. We have also had experience of Adaptive Optic and fibre-optic systems and staff are regularly sought after as independent external reviewers. Recent examples of our work include:

  • Telescope Systems - UKIRT Upgrades, VISTA, Extremely Large Telescopes
  • Space Systems - JWST MIRI
  • Ground based - GMOS, KMOS, WFCAM, VISTA IR, SCUBA 2, Michelle, UIST, ELT Instrument Studies

Head of Group

Group domain / skills

  • Optical to Far-IR Instruments and Telescopes
  • Innovative solutions
  • Optical layout and analysis, including interaction with Mechanical Engineering
  • Design optimisation
  • Tolerancing
  • Straylight and throughput analyses
  • Filter specification and design
  • Test equipment design
  • Assembly, test and alignment of components through to full systems


  • Code V
  • TracePro
  • ASAP
  • GLAD
  • MathCad