When optical systems become exposed to a non-ideal environment, their optical performance degrades. For example, a lens system which was designed to produce high quality images may produce poor quality images when subjected to the thermal effects of a laser beam. Some of the energy in the beam is absorbed by each lens, causing temperature gradients throughout each lens that deform the lens surfaces. A second effect of the temperature gradients is a change in the indices of refraction, optical material properties that are dependent on temperature. A third and less important effect is that the temperature gradients induce stresses that also change the indices of refraction. These combined effects cause image quality to decline.
Challenge:To predict the effects of the environment on optical systems in order to optimize design and minimize its effects