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Advanced Environmentally Resistant Lithium Fluoride Mirror Coatings for the Next-Generation of Broadband Space Observatories

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posted on 2023-11-30, 05:03 authored by Brian Fleming, Manuel Quijada, John Hennessy, Arika Egan, Javier Del Hoyo, Brian A. Hicks, James Wiley, Nicholas Kruczek, Nicholas Erickson, Kevin France
Recent advances in the physical vapor deposition (PVD) of protective fluoride films have raised the far-ultraviolet (FUV: 912-1600 {\AA}) reflectivity of aluminum-based mirrors closer to the theoretical limit. The greatest gains, at more than 20%, have come for lithium fluoride-protected aluminum, which has the shortest wavelength cutoff of any conventional overcoat. Despite the success of the NASA FUSE mission, the use of lithium fluoride (LiF)-based optics is rare, as LiF is hygroscopic and requires handling procedures that can drive risk. With NASA now studying two large mission concepts for astronomy, Large UV-Optical-IR Surveyor (LUVOIR) and the Habitable Exoplanet Imaging Mission (HabEx), which mandate throughput down to 1000 {\AA}, the development of LiF-based coatings becomes crucial. This paper discusses steps that are being taken to qualify these new enhanced LiF-protected aluminum (eLiF) mirror coatings for flight. In addition to quantifying the hygroscopic degradation, we have developed a new method of protecting eLiF with an ultrathin (10-20 {\AA}) capping layer of a non-hygroscopic material to increase durability. We report on the performance of eLiF-based optics and assess the steps that need to be taken to qualify such coatings for LUVOIR, HabEx, and other FUV-sensitive space missions.

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