We achieve the analysis and design of optical attenuators with double-prism neutral density filters. A comparative study is performed on three possible device configurations; only two are presented in the literature but without their design calculus. The characteristic parameters of this optical attenuator with Risley translating prisms for each of the three setups are defined and their analytical expressions are derived: adjustment scale (attenuation range) and interval, minimum transmission coefficient and sensitivity. The setups are compared to select the optimal device, and, from this study, the best solution for double-prism neutral density filters, both from a mechanical and an optical point of view, is determined with two identical, symmetrically movable, no mechanical contact prisms. The design calculus of this optimal device is developed in essential steps. The parameters of the prisms, particularly their angles, are studied to improve the design, and we demonstrate the maximum attenuation range that this type of attenuator can provide.
© 2009 Optical Society of America
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