Optical EngineeringNeutral ion figuring of chemical vapor deposited SiC
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Ion figuring of optical components is a relatively new technology that can alleviate some of the problems associated with traditional contact polishing. Because the technique is noncontacting, edge distortions and rib structure print through do not occur. This investigation was aimed at determining the effect of ion figuring on surface roughness of previously polished or ductile ground ceramic optical samples. This is the first step in research directed toward the combination of a prefinishing process (ductile grinding or polishing) with ion figuring to produce finished ceramic mirrors. Multiple, chemical vapor deposited silicon carbide (CVD SiC) samples were polished or ductile ground to specular or near-specular roughness. These samples were then characterized to determine topographic surface information. The surface evaluation consisted of stylus profilometry, interferometry, and optical and scanning electron microscopy. The surfaces were then ion machined to depths from 0 to 5 μm. The finished surfaces were characterized to evaluate the effects of the ion-machining process with respect to the previous processing methods and the preexisting subsurface damage. This study provides some of the information required to effectively utilize a combined ductile grinding or polishing with ion machining as a procedure for figuring optical components.