Adaptive optics final

Adaptive optics (AO) was first used by astronomers in the 1990s to correct for distortions in astronomical data due to fluctuations in the Earth’s atmosphere. Today, AO is critical in many applications in the machine vision, life sciences, and medical device fields. In many of these applications, AO can be used to increase the depth of field and signal intensity. In other applications, AO can be used to correct wavefront errors and extend the effective operating range of the optical systems. There are several commercially available AO components and ongoing research continues to produce more reliable and cost-effective technologies.

AO’s first use in medical applications was in the measurement and correction of aberrations within the human eye. Here, work pioneered by the University of Rochester in the 1990s enabled visualization of retinal cone photoreceptors with microscopic resolution deep within the living eye. Since then, the scope of AO’s application in medicine has expanded into many other areas.


Wavefront correction techniques are used to map the retina at high resolution. This enables non-invasive characterization of retinal disease and measurement of wavefront aberration caused by the cornea and lens. AO is applied to imaging modalities including conventional fundus cameras, scanning laser ophthalmoscopes, and optical coherence tomography.


AO can also be useful in surgical procedures that require high resolution, expanded depth of field, or focused laser light. AO has been used in multi-mode fiber endoscopes for high-resolution, in vivo imaging of the brain. The use of AO to dynamically control the imaging light allows for significant reduction in the size of the inserted optical fibers, some of which are as thin as a human hair. The smaller footprint means these ultra-narrow endoscopes are less likely to lead to damage to surrounding tissue and complications during use. Additionally, controlling the wavefront of the imaging light with AO allows for real-time corrections for aberrations caused by the tissue being imaged. These corrections increase the imaging resolution and contrast, which allows measurements to be made at lower light intensities and reduces risk of photoinduced damage.


In dermatology therapeutics, laser light is used to dynamically treat the skin. Achieving precise control of the laser spot size is critical to positive outcomes. Here, a liquid lens can be used to move and adjust the focused laser beam for higher precision. More complex wavefront control may be used to correct for aberrations in skin imaging multi-photon microscopy applications.

Beyond medical applications, adaptive optics has applications in the industrial and life sciences industries. In the full white paper, Upgrade Your Optical System With Adaptive Optics, you’ll learn about:

  • Challenges overcome by adaptive optics
  • Applications best suited for a flexible optical system design
  • Components of an adaptive optics system, such as liquid lenses and spatial light modulators

Download the white paper today.