GammaPC - Gammascopes
Some of our most recent experiments have been with Mylar mirrors. Aluminized Mylar is 93% reflective, which is only 2% less reflective than aluminized (or silvered) glass mirrors.
Here, we use a simple round band to stretch the material into a flat, round shape, which can then be modified into a catenary shape, which cannot be used for telescope making. However, if electric fields are used to modify the shape of the mirror, a parabolic or hyperbolic shape can be created, which can be used for telescope applications.
The cost of the material to make a one-meter mirror: about $2.00
The cost to make a one-meter mirror out of glass: about $100,000. The cost of putting telescopes in space is astronomical (pun intended), but a lightweight telescope made of Mylar would cost a fraction of what it would cost to put a similarly-sized glass telescope in space.
Our experiments have shown that we can actually bend a stretched sheet of aluminized Mylar into whatever shape we like with electric fields. Controlling electric fields and their shape is in the thrust of this project. Very large electric fields (roughly 100kV) are required to do this.
While this is an excellent example of this use of Mylar in space exploration (in fact, Mylar was originally developed for use by NASA in early spaceflight), it can also be used on the ground by amateur and professional astronomers to replace the large and expensive telescopes we use now. To buy the die for a 20" telescope mirror (just the glass, then you have to grind it) costs around $15,000. The same amount of aluminized Mylar costs about 50 cents. The only things that remain to be worked on are the electronic circuits and adaptive controls for the electric bending fields.
This type of technology puts the price of professional astronomer-class telescopes within economical reach of the ordinary amateur astronomer. If aluminized Mylar can be made in large enough sheets, these types of telescopes could eventually rival the very large telescopes throughout the world in quality and speed. Normally, a sheet of aluminized Mylar can be purchased that is 50" wide, which limits the maximum size of a telescope mirror to that aperture. Now we can use aluminized Mylar for making something besides toy balloons.