The most critical element of an adaptive optics system is its wavefront sensor, which must measure the closed-loop difference between the corrected wavefront and an ideal template at high speed, in real time, over a dense sampling of the pupil. Most high-order systems have used Shack-Hartmann wavefront sensors, but a novel approach based on Zernike’s phase contrast principle appears promising. In this paper we discuss a simple way to achromatize such a phase contrast wavefront sensor, using the π/2 phase difference between reflected and transmitted rays in a thin, symmetric beam splitter. We further model the response at a range of wavelengths to show that the required transverse dimension of the focal-plane phase-shifting spot, nominally λ/D, may not be very sensitive to wavelength, and so in practice additional optics to introduce wavelength-dependent transverse magnification achromatizing this spot diameter may not be required. A very simple broadband implementation of the phase contrast wavefront sensor results.
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