A membrane deformable mirror has been investigated for its potential use in high-energy laser systems. Experiments were performed in which the deformable mirror was heated with a incandescent lamp and the thermal profile, the wavefront aberrations, and the mechanical displacement of the membrane were measured. A finite element model was also developed. The wavefront characterization experiments showed that the wavefront degraded with heating. Above a temperature of , the wavefront characterization experiments indicated a dramatic increase in the high-order wavefront modes before the optical beam became immeasurable in the sensors. The mechanical displacement data of the membrane mirror showed that during heating, the membrane initially deflected towards the heat source and then deflected away from the heat source. Finite element analysis (FEA) predicted a similar displacement behavior as shown by the mechanical displacement data but over a shorter time scale and a larger magnitude. The mechanical displacement data also showed that the magnitude of membrane displacement increased with the experiments that involved higher temperatures. Above a temperature of , the displacement data showed that random deflections as a function of time developed and that the magnitude of these deflections increased with increased temperature. We concluded that convection, not captured in the FEA, likely played a dominant role in mirror deformation at temperatures above .
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