German company Fraunhofer is developing an amazing deformable mirror that can be used to focus high-powered lasers in applications such as space debri clean-ups.
In movies and the like, it's not uncommon to see a scene where a dashing hero uses a mirror to deflect the bad guy's laser beam back at him. Unfortunately, the laws of physics have always said that this is pretty much impossible because when a laser beam strikes a mirror, it deforms the mirror and makes it impossible to control how the laser beam is deflected.
The Fraunhofer lens will be the first mirror that can deform itself to compensate for heating and other factors to keep lasers tightly focused on a target. This invention is important because in recent times, lasers are increasingly used in high-powered applications over longer distances requiring more precision. One pretty spectacular application of this deformable laser-focusing mirror might be to clear space debris.
The mirror will be on display at the Optatec Trade Fair in Frankfurt, Germany from May 20-22.