CAO has one of the most comprehensive optical design, fabrication, and testing capabilities in the southern region and is located on the UAH campus. The Optics building occupies a 110,000 square- foot state-of-the-art space that houses 6,000 square feet of optics laboratories, clean rooms, dark rooms, and test facilities (with about $6.0M in research optics equipment). The optics laboratories and clean rooms are located in the central core of the Optics Building which provides optimum isolation from vibration and other environmental effects.

The CAO, the Physics department, the Engineering department, and the Nano and Micro Devices Center (NMDC) all share laboratory and office space within the optics building. Some optics labs are supported and maintained by Physics or by the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) departments.
The CAO is presently assigned 14 laboratories on 3 floors of the Optics Building. Total floor space of the CAO labs is approximately 6,700 sq. ft. All the labs are fully stocked with optical tables, opto-mechanical hardware, and test equipment to conduct any type of optical testing and research. Some of the labs are for specific use, such as for fabrication, Vector-Magnetograph Observatory, contact/non-contact metrology, or thin-film deposition. However, the majority of the labs are designated for general use in performing optical testing, prototyping, and experimental design and layout. Lab space can be rented from the CAO to local enterprises and many of the labs can be made to have restricted access for proprietary work.

Highlights of our facilities and capability:

The Optical Design laboratory houses many software programs such as CODEV ZEMAX and FRED for stray-light analysis and optical system modeling. Other capabilities include modeling and analysis and model validation using a vast assortment of optical components and image processing equipment. The CAO maintains four copies of the Photon Engineering optical model FRED for system level analysis and design tolerance validation of innovative new optical designs and has over forty years of experience using the CODE V optical design software. As well the CAO has, and teaches optical design using the design optimization code, Zemax.


We also maintain current versions of ASAP, MACLEOD, MATLAB Math Cad, NASTRAN, Pro-E, and Unigraphics.

The CAO design capability along with our vast array of fabrication and metrology support hardware are used by our staff in the rapid prototyping of novel optical devices and systems such as multi order surface optics, optics for computational imaging, high energy imaging optics, and micro imaging.

Our main laboratory spaces:

Our optical metrology testing is primarily performed in one of two Metrology laboratories. First, is the profilometry lab for Surface Metrology. We have a Taylor-Hobson Form Talysurf , a contact profilometer capable of trace profiles up to 120mm.
Another contact profilometer in this lab is the Rank Taylor-Hobson Talystep, with a magnification of vertical stylus movement of 2x106 and a traverse length of up to 2mm. We use a 1 micron probe tip. For non-contact profilometry we have a WYKO TOPO surface profiler with both 2D and 3D heads maintaining a vertical measurement range from 0.3 nm to 15 micrometers and a Lateral surface resolution of 0.35 to 27 micrometers.

ContactNon-contact Metrology lab
The CAO Profilometry lab

Our other metrology lab is the Interferometer lab, a general space used for inspection of component optical elements and for testing optical system wavefront quality and or overall system performance. In this lab we have several interferometers; a WYKO 400 Fizeau PSI with a 6” beam expander, a WYKO Siris 630 Twyman Green, a WYKO MARK II with updated IPSI software, and a Point Diffraction interferometer. We also maintain an 18 inch diameter nodal slide for measuring principal planes in elements and systems.

WYCO interferometer T-Bar Nodal Slide
WYKO interferometer T-Bar Nodal Slide

Included in the CAO lab floor space is a fully functional Optical Fabrication machine shop and a rough cutting/fabrication assembly area. Here we machine opto-mechanical structures, diamond turn optical surfaces, polish glass optical components, and assemble optical systems. 
Since its inception, the CAO has been proud of our fabrication capability, supporting industry, government and our student body; over the years we have expanded our capability to meet the requirements of our growing customer base.
We have vast array of machines to support the mechanics of fabricating complex devices and optical systems as well as manufacture of individual optical components; ranging from lasers to telescopes and terahertz imagers, to prototyping of Fresnel lenses to full reverse engineering of existing optical and opto-mechanical hardware.

Here are a few examples of recently fabricated optical components:

Mirrors and lenses1 Mirrors and lenses2 Mirrors and lenses3 Mirrors and lenses4 Mirrors and lenses5

Recently fabricated mirrors and lenses

The ZEEKO deterministic polisher.

Here is a selection of our major lab equipment:

  1. Software:
    1. Optical Design and Analysis:
      • Zeemax
      • Code-V
      • Lens View
    2. Physical Optics and Stray Light:
      • ASAP
      • FRED
    3. Thin Film:
      • Essential Macleod
    4. Interferogram Analysis:
      • WYKO Vision
      • WYKO WISP
      • ZYGO IPSI Flash Phase
      • Quick Fringe
    5. Mechanical Design and Analysis:
      • NASTRAN
      • ALGOR
      • Pro-Engineer for CADD/CAM
      • Uni-Graphics for CAD/CAM
  2. Hardware:
    1. Collimators for bench lens testing:
      • 21" Fecker Schmidt with David Mann T-Bar nodal slide
      • 16" Davidson Optronics reflective collimator with 8' lens bench
      • Data Optics Ronchi Grating Optical Tester
      • Lab-built 8" OAP
    2. Interferometers:
      • WYKO 400 Fizeau PSI with 6" beam expander
      • WYKO Siris 630 Twyman Green
      • WYKO MK II with updated IPSI software
      • Shack Cube
      • ZYGO 4" PTI
      • Point Diffraction
    3. Surface Metrology
      • Taylor-Hobson Form Talysurf – contact profilometer
      • Taylor-Hobson Talystep – thin film deposit contact profilometer
      • WYKO TOPO-3D non-contact surface profiler
    4. MTF Measuring:
      • Optikos MTF Video Measurement System
      • Ealing MTF Bench Measurement System
      • Gamma-Scientific MTF Slit Scanner Measurement System
    5. Radiometry
      • Varian/Cary 100 Spectrophotometer with spectral reflectance accessory
      • Watts & Son Prism Refractometer/Spectrometer modified for UV.
      • Oriel Model 77200 Monochromators
      • Ocean-Optics S-2000 Fiber Optic Spectrometer
      • International Light IL-1700 Research Radiometer and detectors
    6. Thin Film Deposition:
      • Electron sputtering system

This selection of major hardware shows the depth of our fabrication and test capability. It is not an exhaustive list, as we have a huge host of optical tabletop hardware, lasers, micro-motion control, lenses and mirrors, all available to the customer during their work with us. When a contract is issued, the contractor has access to these labs for developing their individual hardware. In cases where classified work is involved, the facilities offer many controlled access laboratories. The general lab space is also available to our customers.

Here is a quick tour of our lab spaces:

Here is one of our typical lab spaces.


Davidson Reflective Collimator
Here is our Davidson Reflective Collimator.


ContactNon-contact Metrology lab
Our Contact/Non-contact Metrology lab.


Thin-Film Deposition Lab
Our Thin-Film Deposition Lab.


Spectrophotometer Lab
Our Spectrophotometer Lab.


Vector-Magnetograph Observatory
Our rooftop Vector-Magnetograph Observatory.