In the realm of space exploration, humanity has achieved remarkable feats like landing humans on the moon. However, our progress in venturing beyond our solar system has been limited. Light sails, which utilize photon momentum from laser or solar radiation, o↵er a promising propulsion technology. Unlike traditional rockets, light sails carry no fuel and can achieve high velocities and precise orbital maneuvers. In this research, we propose using an elementary space variant di↵ractive film to design passively stable light sails propelled by laser radiation. We also explore applying this concept to solar sails, enabling spiral trajectories and high orbital inclination angles at close solar orbits. Our focus is on a ’bi-grating’ light sail, designed for stable ’beam-riding’ on a Gaussian laser beam. This concept aligns with the Breakthrough Starshot program, aiming to propel an ultra-lightweight sail to a nearby star at relativistic speeds. We analyze stability conditions and evaluate 2D and 3D configurations. To ensure realistic designs, we develop a framework that optimizes electromagnetic simulations using MEEP software, considering stable dynamics. Furthermore, our framework extends to the design and optimization of solar sails, maximizing transverse force efficiency across a broad solar spectrum. Leveraging advanced multi-objective optimization techniques, we create a solar sail with the highest force and lowest mass for maximum acceleration. Through this research, we contribute insights into the design and optimization of light and solar sails, advancing propulsion technologies and pushing the boundaries of space exploration.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Solar sails--Design; Diffraction; Gaussian beams

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Imaging Science (Ph.D.)

Department, Program, or Center

Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science (COS)


Grover Swartzlander

Advisor/Committee Member

Emmett Ienitilluci

Advisor/Committee Member

Charles Bachmann


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes