The innovation proposal submitted by U-M Physics Assistant Professor Jeff McMahon and his research team has been selected as one of only ten NASA Early Stage Innovation Proposals. Physics Graduate Student Research Assistant Rahul Datta and physics graduate students Charles Munson and Kevin Coughlin helped Professor McMahon develop the proposal, Broad Bandwidth Metamaterial Antireflection Coatings for Measurement of the Cosmic Microwave Background.

NASA has selected these proposals for study of innovative, early stage space technologies that address high priority technical needs that America's space program must master to enable future missions.

Professor McMahon and his research team will study the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), which contains a number of faint signals that, if measured could revolutionize our understandings of the Universe and fundamental physics. Observing these minute signals requires incredible instrumental sensitivity and excellent control over systematic effects. Silicon lenses and sapphire wave plates could play key roles in meeting these requirements if anti-reflection coatings were available to mitigate the large reflections of bare silicon and sapphire.

With this grant, the team will be able to develop novel high-performance metamaterial antireflection coatings, fabricated by machining sub-wavelength structures into the silicon and sapphire surfaces. These coatings will reduce reflections to below 1% over wide bandwidth with negligible dielectric and scattering loss.

“This technology will pave the way for improved CMB instruments and could lead to broader use of these imaging technologies in space and for national defense,” said Professor McMahon.

NASA's Space Technology Research Grants Program is designed to accelerate the development of technologies originating from academia that support the future science and exploration needs of NASA, other government agencies and American industry. The program is part of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is innovating, developing, testing, and flying technology for use in NASA's future missions and the greater aerospace community.