Interferometric experiments towards advanced gravitational wave detectors

Taylor, John R. (2009) Interferometric experiments towards advanced gravitational wave detectors. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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In 1905, Einstein postulated that the speed of light is not only finite, but that its speed in vacuum is a universal limit that no process can exceed. The Theory of General Relativity later extended this concept to include gravitational interactions, and Eddington's timely measurements of stellar positions during a solar eclipse in 1919 confirmed that gravity's effect on spacetime is both real and entirely physical -- not merely a mathematical curiosity.

With the death of Newton's notions of universal time and instantaneous gravity came the idea of gravitational waves as distortions in space-time that propagate the gravitational interaction at the speed of light. These gravitational waves are emitted from any object undergoing a non-axi-symmetric acceleration of mass, but -- due to the exceptionally weak coupling between gravitational waves and matter -- are expected to induce displacements of the order of 10^-18 m in kilometre-scale detectors: the extraordinary diminutiveness of this effect has thus far precluded any direct detection of the phenomenon.

Numerous gravitational wave detectors have been built since the 1960s, in the form of both interferometric detectors and resonant mass devices. Interferometric detectors currently represent the most promising form of detector, due to their relatively wide-band response to gravitational wave signals and promising levels of sensitivity. In recent years a worldwide network of these interferometric detectors (LIGO, GEO600, Virgo and TAMA300) have begun to approach (or indeed reach) their design sensitivities.

Although these detectors have started to provide upper limit results for gravitational wave emission that are of astrophysical significance, there have as yet been no direct detections. As such, work is underway to upgrade and improve these detectors. However, increasing the signal sensitivity necessarily leads to an increase in their sensitivity to their limiting noise sources. Two critical noise limits that must be characterised, understood, and hopefully reduced for the benefit of future detectors, are thermal noise (from mirror substrates, reflective coatings and suspension systems) and photon noise -- associated with the intrinsic shot noise of light and the noise due to light's radiation pressure.

Two interferometric experiments designed to help inform on these phenomena were constructed at the University of Glasgow's Institute for Gravitational Research.

The first experiment compared the relative displacement noise spectra of two specially constructed optical cavities, to extract the thermal noise spectrum of a single test mirror. In future experiments, this optic could be changed and the thermal noise spectrum for any suitable combination of mirror substrate and reflective coating evaluated.

The second experiment involved the investigation of suitable control schemes for a three-mirror coupled optical cavity. As the resonant light power in interferometers increases in future devices (in order to decrease the photon shot noise) the need to de-couple the control schemes that govern the respective cavities so that they can be controlled independently, becomes more important. As a three-mirror cavity effectively represents a simple coupled system, it provides a suitable test-bed for characterising suitable control schemes for more advanced interferometers.

Together, these experiments may provide information useful to the design of future gravitational wave interferometers.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: gravity, gravitational waves, IGR, JIF, physics, astronomy, instrumentation, thermal, thermal noise, suspensions, interferometry, interferometric, laser, optics, control systems, control, experimental
Subjects: Q Science > QB Astronomy
Q Science > QC Physics
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Physics and Astronomy
Supervisor's Name: Strain, Prof. Ken A.
Date of Award: 2009
Depositing User: Mr John R Taylor
Unique ID: glathesis:2009-727
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 22 May 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:25

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