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See how our Gold Coating is Making it Possible to See the Universe's Earliest Light

Video Transcription:

Mary Estacion: Mirrors on a telescope are often coated with some kind of metal in order to reflect as much light as possible. Now the type of metal depends on the kind of light the telescope is looking at; the James Webb Telescope is looking at infrared light, and for that, gold is the ideal choice. To find out how the gold is put onto the mirrors of the James Webb space telescope, we’re here at Quantum Coating in Moorestown, New Jersey.

Mary Estacion: So Ian, how much gold are we talking about, enough for a ring?

Ian Stevenson: Not even that. Well, it depends on how big your ring is, of course, but the thickness of the coating is almost unimaginably small. To give you an example, this piece of paper is about one thousandth of an inch. We could take 1,000 gold coatings and stack them side by side and they would be the thickness of this piece of paper.
In terms of the amount of gold that we need, it comes to three grams of material.

Mary Estacion: And three grams looks like this. Wow, that’s amazing, considering how big the mirror is.

Ian Stevenson: That amount, when it’s spread out thin enough, covers the whole surface of the hexagon.

Mary Estacion: When you apply the coating, are we talking about like a paint job?

Ian Stevenson: No, this is called vacuum deposition. It happens in a chamber where all of the air has been sucked out to create a vacuum and we vaporize the gold. We create a cloud of vapor, and that vapor condenses on the surface to form the film.

Mary Estacion: And why do you choose to apply the gold that way?

Ian Stevenson: That’s the way to get the maximum reflection. Spray painting or other techniques wouldn’t give us enough reflection.

Mary Estacion: Can we actually see the gold being applied to a mirror?

Ian Stevenson: Sure, Ty’s the guy who operates the coating machine, he’d be happy to show you how that works.

Mary Estacion: Hey Ty!

Tyrone Wilson: Hey, how are you doing Mary?

Mary Estacion: I was told that the coating process is about to start.

Tyrone Wilson: Sure, we’re about to start the coating soon.

Mary Estacion: Can we tag along?

Tyrone Wilson: Sure.
What we’re doing here now, we’re preparing the mirror for coating, cleaning the mirror of any contaminants or any particles that could be on the mirror.

Mary Estacion: So Ty, what’s going on here now?

Tyrone Wilson: Okay, now we’re putting on the shield and the mask for the mirror. The coating cannot be beyond a certain area on the mirror.

Mary Estacion: You want the gold to just be on the surface, nothing on the sides or anything.

Tyrone Wilson: Right, there’s a bevel also on the edge of the mirror. We don’t want any coating on the bevel, either.

Mary Estacion: How long is this going to take?

Tyrone Wilson: Maybe an hour in total.

Mary Estacion: I understand there are no cameras in the chamber; can we see what’s going on?

Tyrone Wilson: We take a look inside our viewport, you see the part rotating, and we can see the glow disperse right now.

Mary Estacion: So Ty, we couldn’t show the actual company-specific equipment that was used to apply the coating, but we get to see the gold coated mirror fresh out of the chamber.

Tyrone Wilson: Yeah, that’s neat. Look at it, the mirror is coated, now we’re all complete and we’re ready to ship it off to the customer and they can begin their testing.

Mary Estacion: Well thanks so much for guiding us through coating process, it was fascinating.

Tyrone Wilson: Not a problem at all.

Mary Estacion: As you can see, gold isn’t just a fashion accessory for the James Webb Telescope, but a critical addition to making the telescope work it’s very best. Thanks for joining us for another edition of behind the Webb.



Quantum Coating Featured In BBC Documentary

Quantum Coating was recently featured in BBC’s documentary, In Orbit: How Satellites Rule Our World.  Hosted by Maggie Aderin Pocock, the documentary reveals the vital role that satellites play in the modern world and explores the huge advances that have been made possible by satellites. 

Quantum was featured for its work coating twenty-one of the most sophisticated and nearly irreplaceable optical elements of the James Webb Space Telescope.  To complete this project, Quantum Coating technicians applied a proprietary gold film, 200 times thinner than a human hair, to the mirrors that will be part of the telescope.  The gold coating allows instruments aboard the telescope to detect the most distant objects in the universe by reflecting infrared light that has traveled through space and time.

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Ian Stevenson of Quantum Coating, Inc. Invited To Present at SVC TechCon 2012

Ian Stevenson, Director of Coating at Quantum Coating, Inc., has been invited to speak at the Society of Vacuum Coaters (SVC) 2012 TechCon in Santa Clara, CA. 

The SVC conference brings together cutting edge technologies across a broad range of disciplines, with a practical emphasis on the application of these technologies toward enhanced product lines and improved manufacturing in the industry.

Stevenson will be conducting a Technical Presentation at the conference on Wednesday, May 2nd.  The presentation will review the considerable and varied technical challenges that were overcome by Quantum in coating the mirrors for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

“Each year, the SVC Technical Advisory Committee chooses a select few to be invited speakers,” Stevenson explains.  “These speakers are usually highly-respected members of our industry, whose work is considered particularly significant and whose presentation is expected to raise the profile of the conference.  The invitation to speak at this year’s SVC conference is both an honor and a privilege.”

Stevenson has attended the SVC conference for more than 25 years.  He has served on the Technical Advisory Committee for optical coatings for many of these years, and has served as Co-Chair for two years.

“At QCI we understand that high profile programs like James Webb come with significant challenges and inherent risks,” Stevenson reports.  “We also know that embracing such challenges and risks is the best way to become a stronger organization with enhanced technical expertise. This has been, and always will be, the Quantum dynamic. I look forward to sharing some of these experiences in our presentation at SVC.”

Stevenson's presentation, titled "Gold Coatings for the Reflective Optics on the JWST" (Ref O-12) is on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 2nd. His co-authors are Dan Patriarca, Chuck Childers and George Sadkhin.

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Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation recognizes Quantum Coating for their Excellence in Performance.

Thirteen members of the Quantum Coating Inc. team were recognized by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. for their "Outstanding Contribution to the Success of the JWST Program" . Ball Aerospace, providing the advanced optical technology and lightweight mirror system for the James Webb Space Telescope, contracted Quantum Coating in 2007 to provide the gold mirror coating for the 21 flight mirrors in the JWST program. In September, Quantum completed the program on schedule, meeting every requirement on every mirror.

Ben Gallagher ( Telescope Manager),  Tracy Copp (Sr. Materials Engineer), and Rob Pollard (Mission Assurance Manager) of Ball Aerospace  presented each member of the QCI Mirror Coating Team with a commemorative plaque accompanied by a  certificate highlighting this successful accomplishment.  Quantum’s President, Dan Patriarca was then presented with a plaque for Quantum to display with pride as the James Webb Project moves into its next stage of development.

Dr. Ritva Keski-Kuha (JWST Deputy OTE Manager) from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center was also on hand to address the group.  The presentation concluded with an excellent dissertation given by Dr. Charles Bowers  (Research Astrophysicist) from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center detailing exactly what the James Webb Space Telescope would do to further our knowledge of the universe.

“Dr. Bowers' presentation helped us to better understand how this telescope is going to be used, as well as to visualize the  types of objects it will help our scientists  identify,”  commented Linda Rosenblum, Director of Customer Sales. 

“The James Webb Space Telescope is a collaborative effort involving the finest scientists, engineers and manufacturers from around the world," remarked Quantum President, Dan Patriarca. " It has truly been a pleasure to work with this fine group of professionals from Ball Aerospace, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and Northrop Grumman.

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Quantum Coating Completes Gold Mirror Coatings for James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) with 100% Success

Quantum Coating, Inc is pleased to announce a milestone in both optical coating and space exploration: The successful gold mirror coating on all flight optics for the Webb Telescope program. Over the past 15 months twenty-one of the most sophisticated and near irreplaceable optical elements were treated with Quantum's unique gold deposition process. All coatings were completed on schedule, meeting every requirement on every mirror.

Finishing all mirror coatings on schedule is another major success story for the Webb telescope mirrors" (Lee Feinberg, NASA).

It represents not just the coating event, but the completion of a huge engineering project" (John Mather, senior project scientist, JWST).

The principal assembly is the 6.5m Primary Mirror, which is an array of 18 hexagons, each 1.5m across and made from light weighted beryllium (Be). The telescope also has Secondary, Tertiary and Fine Steering mirrors. Transforming these mirrors from metal blanks took multiple trips across the US as they were machined, ground, polished and tested. The mirrors then traveled to Moorestown, NJ for the final, critical application of Quantum's proprietary reflective gold coating: a 120nm thick film that boosts the infrared reflectance to 99%.

Quantum Team

The JWST demanded near-perfect precision in every aspect of the project, from handling the large, almost irreplaceable Be substrates, to achieving near-perfect thickness uniformity over 1.5m curved surfaces. Quantum delivered on each requirement while managing film reflectance, stress and durability with the ability to survive cryogenic cycling to near absolute zero.

We are very proud," said Quantum President Dan Patriarca, "not just of our successful coating effort, but that we were able to play a very significant role in a scientific program of this magnitude. The technical challenges of this program, uniformity of less then 10nm over a 1.5M curved surface, high reflectivity from 0.8 to 26 microns and survivability in the extreme environment of outer space to name a few, presented a daunting task for our team. The successful completion of this program without error or exception has affirmed our competency and ability to meet such demands. It also expands our experience to take on similarly challenging programs in the future. We look forward to moving beyond this program and establishing ourselves as a premier coating house to the scientific community.

Quantum's involvement began in 2001, when the first gold coated Be samples were produced and dropped in liquid nitrogen, demonstrating their ability to withstand cryogenic temperatures. At that time, the program was known as Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST), replacing the venerable Hubble Telescope. In 2007 Quantum was awarded the contract for gold coatings on the telescope, by then known as James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), named for the NASA administrator.

Over the next two years, Quantum expanded to meet its new needs, investing in a new 1800ft2 Class 1000 cleanroom facility, a custom designed 96" coating chamber and a metrology laboratory with a variety of specialized instruments for testing reflectance, thickness, stress, roughness and cryo-cycling.

Four years later the investment has proved to be well worth it: the final primary segment was coated last month, bringing to a spectacularly successful end Quantum's 10 year involvement in the Webb Telescope program.


James Webb Space Telescope Overview:

The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called JWST) is a large, infrared-optimized space telescope. The project is working to a 2018 launch date. Webb will find the first galaxies that formed in the early Universe, connecting the Big Bang to our own Milky Way Galaxy. Read more...

Observatory: The Optical Telescope Element (OTE)

The Optical Telescope Element (OTE) is the eye of the James Webb Space Telescope Observatory. The OTE gathers the light coming from space and provides it to the science instruments. Webb needs a large mirror to collect as much light as possible to see galaxies from the beginning of the Universe. Read more about the JWST Optical Telescope Element

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On June 24th, 2010 the first full size (1.5m) hexagonal beryllium primary mirror segment was coated with protected gold at Quantum Coating Incorporated. This represents the culmination of a two-year effort and is the final major milestone in our program to develop and qualify the gold coatings to be used on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The preliminary segment, known as the Engineering Development Unit (EDU) will not become part of the telescope’s primary array, which consists of 18 almost identical hexagons, but will be used for ground based testing and will serve as a spare.

The EDU will be used for evaluation: before proceeding with the primary segments it is critical to verify that the combination of our high-reflectance gold coating with light-weighted Beryllium mirror technology performs as predicted in all respects. Several important performance elements – such as cryogenic cycling, durability, stress and reflectance - had already been demonstrated in the course of prior qualifying stages and the successful coating of the Tertiary Mirror in April of this year.  The full-size EDU brought additional critical requirements into play: control of thickness uniformity over the 1.5m off-axis parabolic surface, and control of the coated aperture to within a fraction of a millimeter along the curved edges of the hexagon. Both aspects were successfully demonstrated through the innovative design and meticulous attention to detail that has become hallmarks of Quantum’s Aerospace Division.

The Webb telescope will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System.

Several innovative technologies have been developed for JWST. These include a folding, segmented primary mirror, adjusted to shape after launch; ultra-lightweight beryllium optics; detectors able to record extremely weak signals, microshutters that enable programmable object selection for the spectrograph; and a cryocooler for cooling the mid-IR detectors to 7K.

Looking forward, the next flight optic, the Fine Steering Mirror (FSM) will be coated in July, followed by the first of the Primary Mirror Segments in September 2010. Launch is scheduled for 2014. For more about JWST, visit: http://www.jwst.nasa.gov/about.html

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In May 2009 the JWST chamber was used to coat two 1.5m zerodur telescope mirrors with our FSS99-106 protected silver. The coatings were uniform to within 2% across the full clear aperture and met all durability and reflectance requirements.

This not only demonstrated the operational readiness of the machine, but also served as an extreme load test of the substrate rotation assembly: the combined weight of each glass optic in its fixture approached 2,500lbs, more than 6 times the projected weight of a JWST Primary Segment when fully fixtured.

Coatings on JWST telescope optics will start later this year.

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QCI is awarded the contract to coat the primary mirror segments for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The 6.5 meter primary will be comprised of 18 1.5 meter beryllium segments, each of which will be coated with a Denton proprietary gold coating at QCI

“This is a great day for our company”, said QCI President Dan Patriarca. “It is a testament to our longstanding reputation in the aerospace arena and a credit to everyone in the Quantum/Denton organization. We are very excited to be involved in the JWST program”

JWST will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System.

Several innovative technologies have been developed for JWST. These include a folding, segmented primary mirror, adjusted to shape after launch; ultra-lightweight beryllium optics; detectors able to record extremely weak signals, microshutters that enable programmable object selection for the spectrograph; and a cryocooler for cooling the mid-IR detectors to 7K. The long-lead items, such as the beryllium mirror segments and science instruments, are under construction. All mission enabling technologies will be demonstrated by January 2007.

The Launch is planned for 2013. For more about JWST, visit: http://www.jwst.nasa.gov/about.html

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QCI begins construction of their new Clean Room and Coating Facility at 1259 North Church Street, Moorestown, NJ. A new, Class 1000 (ISO Class 6) clean area is being constructed to house the deposition chambers from both Quantum’s existing facility and the Denton Coating Group. In addition, 2 new 1.5m chambers are being added to increase production capacity. “We are all excited about the new facility”, said QCI President Dan Patriarca. “The combination of extra chambers and a cleaner environment will allow us to improve quality and increase production”. The facility is scheduled for completion by October 2007.

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QCI gains ISO9001 certification under the guidance of QC Manager Chuck Childers, who joined the company in June 2006 to spearhead this effort. “Our goal to be certified within one year was very ambitious,” said Quantum President, Dan Patriarca. “It is not easy for a small company to go through this process while maintaining our productivity. We were successful because of Chuck’s dedication and the cooperation of everyone here at QCI.” See ISO Certicicate

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QCI acquires the Denton Coatings Group from Denton Vacuum, LLC “I am delighted to have the opportunity to acquire Denton Coatings”, said Quantum founder and President, Dan Partiarca. “We have enjoyed an excellent relationship with Denton over the years and we intend to maintain and grow their full product line, which is very complimentary to ours at QCI. This is truly a win-win situation: QCI gains an expanded customer base, diversified product line and a workforce with a wealth of technical experience. The Denton product line can take advantage of Quantum’s larger machine capacity, broader manufacturing expertise and enjoy opportunities for growth.”

In the fall, Quantum plans to move all operations to the Moorestown plant where they will be combined in a new coating facility within a Class 6 Clean Room.

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Denton Coatings has successfully completed the anti-reflection (AR) coatings on the Schmidt Corrector for the 0.95m high field of view photometer on the Kepler Mission. The corrector required specially designed broad band AR coatings that were resistant to radiation damage and had low reflectance over the wavelength range 400nm to 900nm and. The Kepler Mission, a NASA Discovery mission, is specifically designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to detect and characterize hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone. The habitable zone encompasses the distances from a star where liquid water can exist on a planet's surface. Results from this mission will allow us to place our solar system within the continuum of planetary systems in the Galaxy. Launch is scheduled for February 2009. For more about Kepler, visit:


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