To be built in Cerro Armazones, Chile, the €1 billion optical/infrared instrument is regarded as the biggest revolution in astronomy for 400 years and is scheduled to be operational by 2018. It will look at galaxies created immediately after the Big Bang and will also be able to see planets orbiting stars other than our own sun.
The OpTIC centre, a commercial enterprise within Glyndŵr University that develops new processes and products, has completed an initial E-ELT prototype production phase and is now polishing seven hexagonal mirror segments for the telescope itself. When built, the telescope will weigh 5,000 tonnes, measure 42 metres across and comprise 984 glass segments of approximately 2.5 sq m each. In addition, 164 spare mirror segments will be made to facilitate maintenance and coating, making a total of 1,148 segments. If volume production eventually goes ahead, hundreds of new jobs will be created in North Wales.
Family-owned polishing and metrology equipment manufacturer, Zeeko, based in Coalville, has a research facility within OpTIC. Zeeko co-founder and Director of Research, Professor David Walker, a professor at Glyndŵr University and also at UCL, is leading Zeeko’s E-ELT project work in the UK.
The Zeeko optic fabrication centre, which won the Queen's Awards for Innovation this year, is based on the company's IRP 1600 corrective polishing machine platform and includes integrated measuring. The benefit of combining the two functions is that each delicate, precision component remains fixed during the production process, avoiding the risk of damaging the optic by repeatedly transferring it between the polisher and a measuring station.