Polishability of thin electrolytic and electroless NiP layers
Ultra-precise metal optics are key components of sophisticated scientific instrumentation in astronomy and space applications, covering a wide spectral range. Especially for applications in the visible or ultra-violet spectral ranges, a low roughness of the optics is required. Therefore, a polishable surface is necessary. State of the art is an amorphous nickel-phosphorus (NiP) layer, which enables several polishing techniques achieving a roughness of <1 nm RMS. Typically, these layers are approximately 30 mm to 60 mm thick. Deposited on Al6061, the bimetallic effect leads to a restricted operational temperature, caused by different coefficients of thermal expansion of Al6061 and NiP. Thinner NiP layers reduce the bimetallic effect. Hence, the possible operating temperature range. A deterministic shape correction via Magnetorheological Finishing of the substrate Al6061 leads to low shape deviations prior to the NiP deposition. This allows for depositing thin NiP-layers, which are polishable via a chemical mechanical polishing technique aiming at ultra-precise metal optics. The present article shows deposition processes and polishability of electroless and electrolytic NiP layers with thicknesses between 1 mm and 10 mm.