From mapping the Milky Way to rapidly measuring and manipulating matter at the nanometre scale. At TNO we develop world-class optomechatronic systems for applications in space, big science, and the semiconductor industry. We push back the boundaries of technology, so as to give impetus to the high-tech industry and enable scientific discoveries.
Applications in 3 markets
We apply our optomechatronics expertise in 3 markets:
1. Space instrumentation
We’ve already successfully launched a number of space instruments, which are now operating in orbit around the Earth. These include spectrometers for Earth observation and the associated calibration equipment, communication modules, and mechanisms.
2. Semiconductor industry
We develop modules and equipment for the semiconductor industry, with a focus on sensors, metrology, and concepts for lithography. We’re also the leading expert on cleaning technology for this market.
3. Big science
We develop a wide range of sensors and actuator systems for big science facilities. Examples are the ITER nuclear fusion reactor, the KM3NET neutrino detector, and large astronomical telescopes.
Knowledge within 4 technology lines
The Optomechatronics expertise group develops new knowledge within 4 technology lines:
1. Ultra-stable systems
Nanometre stability is a recurrent theme, whether we’re working on particle detectors, spectrometers, maskless lithography or mechanical structures for large optics.
2. Nanomechanical instruments
We combine our knowledge of instrumentation development with an in-depth understanding of physical phenomena at the nanoscale. We translate scanning probe technology from the laboratory environment into industrial practice, for example for semiconductor metrology and biomedical applications.
3. Active and adaptive optics
We develop instrument prototypes and complete systems. These include pointing mechanisms, deformable mirrors, laser guide stars, and advanced control engineering. Such technology is applied in optical communication, ground-based astronomy, and light sources for lithography.
4. Smart Industry
We bring companies together for the purpose of digitalising industry. Together, we work on concepts for zero-defect production by means of in-line measurement and control. We also work on concepts to reduce changeover times by linking different hardware and software systems. In this way, we make zero programming possible.
A glimpse behind the scenes at Optomechatronics
Technical expertise in 4 disciplines
More than 70 employees of 10 different nationalities work in Optomechatronics. In addition to our main activity of developing working prototypes, we boast a significant scientific output of patents and publications. We also host 5 to 10 PhD students and Master’s students. Our experts work in the following disciplines:
1. Mechanical design
Mechanical design is driven by the demand for extreme structural stability, high specific stiffness and strength, and extremely predictable motion behaviour, often in limited volumes. Knowledge of statically determined construction and of the interaction between mechanics and optical components are key elements in developing good instrumentation.
2. Control technology
Control technology in optomechatronic systems is used to achieve high suppression of disturbances and robust system performance. Our control technology solutions use multiple sensors and actuators with a high bandwidth. These are often used in a real-time setting, in combination with specially developed electronics. Design methods include loop shaping, optimal control, coupled MIMO design, and non-linear and adaptive control.
Nanomechanics involves understanding the interactions of electromagnetic and quantum/mechanical waves with matter at the nanoscale, and the associated non-linearities and instabilities. Armed with this knowledge, we develop new concepts for measuring that go well beyond the limitations of classic solutions in terms of accuracy, speed or sensitivity.
4. Systems engineering & architecture
In this area, we work on conceptual design and trade-offs in all technical disciplines and through all phases of a project. Our aim is to achieve an optimum balance between technical achievements, turnaround time, and costs. It includes both the creative process of getting to the heart of a technical challenge and creating solutions, and the formal systems engineering process needed to manage a high-risk development project.