Shack-Hartmann, Aberrometer


Ocular wavefront sensing is vital to improving our understanding of the human eye and to developing advanced vision correction methods, such as adaptive optics, customized contact lenses, and customized laser refractive surgery. It is also a necessary technique for high-resolution imaging of the retina. The most commonly used wavefront sensing method is based on the Shack-Hartmann wavefront sensor. Since Junzhong Liang's first application of Shack-Hartmann wavefront sensing for the human eye in 1994, the method has quickly gained acceptance and popularity in the ophthalmic industry. Several commercial Shack-Hartmann eye aberrometers are currently available. While the existing aberrometers offer reasonable measurement accuracy and reproducibility, they do have a limited dynamic range. Although rare, highly aberrated eyes do exists (corneal transplant, keratoconus, post-lasik) that cannot be measured with the existing devices. Clinicians as well as optical engineers agree that there is room for improvement in the performance of these devices "Although the optical aberrations of normal eyes have been studied by the Shack-Hartmann technique, little is known about the optical imperfections of abnormal eyes. Furthermore, it is not obvious that current Shack-Hartmann aberrometers are robust enough to successfully measure clinically abnormal eyes of poor optical quality" Larry Thibos, School of Optometry, Indiana University. The ultimate goal for ophthalmic aberrometers and the main objective of this work is to increase the dynamic range of the wavefront sensor without sacrificing its sensitivity or accuracy. In this dissertation, we attempt to review and integrate knowledge and techniques from previous studies as well as to propose our own analytical approach to optimizing the optical design of the sensor in order to achieve the desired dynamic range. We present the underlying theory that governs the relationship between the performance metrics of the sensor: dynamic range, sensitivity, spatial resolution, and accuracy. We study the design constraints and trade-offs and present our system optimization method in detail. To validate the conceptual approach, a complex simulation model was developed. The comprehensive model was able to predict the performance of the sensor as a function of system design parameters, for a wide variety of ocular wavefronts. This simulation model did confirm the results obtained with our analytical approach. The simulator itself can now be used as a standalone tool for other Shack-Hartmann sensor designs. Finally, we were able to validate our theoretical work by designing and building an experimental prototype. We present some of the more practical design aspects, such as illumination choices and tolerance analysis methods. The prototype validated the conceptual approach used in the design and was able to demonstrate a vast increase in dynamic range while maintaining accurate and repeatable measurements.


If this is your thesis or dissertation, and want to learn how to access it or for more information about readership statistics, contact us at

Graduation Date



Harvey, James


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Optics and Photonics


Optics and Photonics

Degree Program









Release Date

July 2014

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)