Performance characterization of a broadband vector Apodizing Phase Plate coronagraph


One of the main challenges for the direct imaging of planets around nearby stars is the suppression of the diffracted halo from the primary star. Coronagraphs are angular filters that suppress this diffracted halo. The Apodizing Phase Plate coronagraph modifies the pupil-plane phase with an anti-symmetric pattern to suppress diffraction over a 180 degree region from 2 to 7 λ/D and achieves a mean raw contrast of $10^{−4}$ in this area, independent of the tip-tilt stability of the system. Current APP coronagraphs implemented using classical phase techniques are limited in bandwidth and suppression region geometry (i.e. only on one side of the star). In this paper, we introduce the vector-APP (vAPP) whose phase pattern is implemented through the vector phase imposed by the orientation of patterned liquid crystals. Beam-splitting according to circular polarization states produces two, complementary PSFs with dark holes on either side. We have developed a prototype vAPP that consists of a stack of three twisting liquid crystal layers to yield a bandwidth of 500 to 900 nm. We characterize the properties of this device using reconstructions of the pupil-plane pattern, and of the ensuing PSF structures. By imaging the pupil between crossed and parallel polarizers we reconstruct the fast axis pattern, transmission, and retardance of the vAPP, and use this as input for a PSF model. This model includes aberrations of the laboratory set-up, and matches the measured PSF, which shows a raw contrast of $10^{−3.8}$ between 2 and 7 λ/D in a 135 degree wedge. The vAPP coronagraph is relatively easy to manufacture and can be implemented together with a broadband quarter-wave plate and Wollaston prism in a pupil wheel in high-contrast imaging instruments. The liquid crystal patterning technique permits the application of extreme phase patterns with deeper contrasts inside the dark holes, and the multilayer liquid crystal achromatization technique enables unprecedented spectral bandwidths for phase-manipulation coronagraphy.

In Optics Express
Gilles P.P.L. Otten
Gilles P.P.L. Otten
Support Scientist

My research interests include high contrast imaging, high resolution spectroscopy and interferometry.