CSU team to research gravitational waves with Nobel-winning group

Samantha Ye

The global science team responsible for proving Einstein’s gravitational waves — and consequently winning a Nobel Prize in physics — added three new members from Colorado State University earlier this year.

Headed by Carmen Menoni, professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering, the CSU team of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory Scientific Collaboration will improve LIGO’s mirror coating technology to make it more sensitive for future observing runs and advance LIGO’s knowledge of coating architectures, according to a press release from SOURCE.

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LIGO detects gravitational waves using an L-shaped, two-mile long interferometer. The device splits a laser beam in two. The twin beams hit specialized mirrors which bounce the beams back and forth, creating an interference pattern which can show if a gravitational wave has passed through or not.

However, vibrations from other sources, like the atomic vibrations from the coatings on the mirrors, can disrupt the interference patterns, making the gravitational waves undetectable.

Menoni’s team intends to fix that.

Through testing and experimentation, the CSU team is developing a new type of coating for the LIGO mirrors to reduce the wave-masking vibrations of the current interferometers.

“Our efforts will aim to increase the sensitivity of the detectors by a factor of 10,” Menoni said in the press release. “It’s a very interesting problem from the physics and optics point of view. We have a great opportunity here to make a dent in a very difficult problem.”

Collegian news reporter Samantha Ye can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @samxye4.