From mapping the galaxy and investigating the largest scales of the cosmos, down to the fast measurement and manipulation of matter at the nanometer level: the TNO research group Optomechatronics develops world-class optomechanical and mechatronics systems for customer needs in the fields of Space- and Scientific Instrumentation and the Semiconductor Industry. We push the limits of technology, to stimulate industry and enable scientific discovery.



TNO’s optomechatronics expertise is applied in three markets:

  • TNO has an excellent track record in space-based imaging spectrometers, mechanisms and the associated calibration equipment. Multiple instruments were successfully launched on board satellites and are still in orbit and in operation today.
  • TNO develops modules and equipment for the semiconductor industry, focusing on sensors, metrology and lithography concepts. TNO is also the leading expert in contamination control.
  • TNO develops a wide range of sensors and actuator systems for the big science facilities, such as ITER (nuclear fusion), the KM3NET neutroino detector and ground-based astronomical telescopes).

Technology lines

The Optomechatronics department develops new knowledge within three technology lines:

  • Ultra stable systems is where we have our roots. Whether we work on particle detectors, spectrometers, mechanical structures for large optics or on new system architectures for maskless lithography: nanometer-stability is the recurring theme.
  • Nano-mechanical instruments is a field where we combine our knowledge of how to develop instruments with in-depth understanding of physical phenomena at the nano-scale. We translate scanning probe technology from the laboratory towards real-world applications such as semiconductor defect inspection and metrology, and biomedical applications.
  • Active and adaptive optics is a key technology in next-generation imaging and optical communication systems. We develop full systems and submodules such as deformable mirrors, artificial guide stars, advanced control algoritms and wavefront sensors for optical satellite communication, ground-based astronomy and light sources for lithography.
  • Smart Industry is the digitization of industrial production. We bring together partners who have pieces of the puzzle, and develop technology to fill in the blanks. We work on concepts for ‘zero-defect’ manufacturing by in-line sensing and actuation; and on shortening turnaround times by linking various hardware- and software systems to enable ‘zero programming’.

Technical disciplines

The Optomechatronics group has over 60 employees from 8 different nationalities. In addition to our main activity of developing working prototypes, we have a considerable scientific output in terms of patents and publications. At any time we are also host to between 5 and 10 PhD and MSc students. Our experts work in the following disciplines:

  • Mechanical design is driven by a demand for extreme structural stability, high specific stiffness and strength, and extremely predictable motion behaviour, often in restricted volumes. Knowledge of statically determined design and of the interaction between mechanics and optical components are key elements in developing effective and successful instruments.
  • Control engineering in optomechatronic systems is used to achieve high disturbance rejection and robust performance. Our control solutions use multiple sensors and actuators at high bandwidth, and are often applied in a real-time setting together with dedicated electronics. Design methods include loop-shaping, optimal control, coupled MIMO design, non-linear and adaptive control.
  • Nano-mechanics deals with understanding the interactions of electromagnetic and quantum/mechanical waves with matter at the nano-scale, and the associated nonlinearities and instabilities. With this knowledge we are able to develop new sensing and transducing concepts which go far beyond the limitations of classical solutions in terms of accuracy, speed or sensitivity.
  • System-architecture deals with conceptual design and trade-offs across all technical disciplines, in order to achieve the optimum balance between technical performance, lead time and cost. It includes both the creative process of getting to the heart of a technical challenge and generating solutions, and a the formal system engineering process required to steer a high-risk technology development project.
TNO Insights

Algorithm creates new, lighter design for space telescope

14 October 2019
Could today’s top technology improve on a 15-year-old engineering masterpiece? Using the latest design methods, TNO is remaking the Ozone Monitoring Instrument’s (OMI) telescope. The original OMI, which... Read more
Our work

Gaia Basic Angle Monitoring system

The Gaia mission, part of ESA’s Cosmic Vision programme, will create an extraordinarily precise three-dimensional map of more than one billion stars in our Milky Way by around 2022. The Gaia spacecraft,... Read more

Expertise groups