Steve Maloney, a visiting highschool teacher, and I have started to set up a new scattering experiment in the Richter lab. The idea is to take images of large-angle scattered light using different lasers. We have one 633nm laser, and 532nm and 405nm laser pointers. The goal is to uniformly illuminate the same disk of about 1cm diameter on a silver-coated mirror with all three colors. We use a silver-coated mirror to make sure that the light is reflected from the same layer so that all colors are scattered from the same abberations.
The image shows one of the laser pointers and the HeNe laser. The first step is to widen the beam with a f=5cm broadband, AR coated lens (Newport PAC15AR.15). The diverging beam is then aligned through an iris to give it the right size on the mirror. In this way, illumination is almost uniform on the mirror surface.
The mirror is mounted over the rotation axis of a unipolar stepper motor. For the moment we only took images from fixed direction (initially with a commercial digital camera, later with a monochromatic Sony XT-ST50 CCD camera. The problem with the commercial camera was that you cannot completely control what the camera is doing. Also it would have been very difficult to calibrate the image once you start comparing scattering with different colors. A f=7.5cm lens is used to image the illuminated disk on the CCD chip to make maximal use of its resolution. The CCD signal is read out on a Windows machine with an EasyCap video capture device connected to a USB port. Standard software can then be used to take images or record videos. For some reason the capture device reduces the image size to 640x480 pixels (a little less than the size of the CCD chip).
Eventually the camera and lens will be mounted on a metal arm whose orientation is controlled by the stepper motor. The stepper motor was part of the Silicon Motor Reference Design (Silicon Laboratories). It comes with all kinds of cables and a motor control board. Software is provided to upload compiled C code to the board, but for our purposes it is easiest to use primitive communication methods between the PC and the board. We are working with HyperTerminal that used to be part of Windows installations, but now it has to be downloaded from the web. This program can send simple commands through TCP/IP and COM ports. These commands allow us to position the motor and define its rotation speed. Since our PC does not have a serial port, we purchased a Belkin USB Serial Adapter. You will have to search the web to find suitable drivers for Windows 7 x64. Luckily, Magic Control Technology has similar products and the driver for their U232-P9 USB/serial adapter also works for the Belkin product.
So our goal for the remaining weeks is to take many images from various angles and to set up the experiment in a way that we can VNC into our lab PC and control everything from the Red Door Cafe.