Gravitational wave detectors are in many ways the most sensitive instruments ever built and have opened a new window to the universe. The steadily growing number of discoveries helps us develop a better understanding of our cosmic setting and probe for exciting new fundamental physics.
Gravitational wave detection has reached the thermal noise limit of optical coating technology: Thermal effects in the mirror coatings drown potential signals in noise. This has sparked a broad search for novel coating materials, coating topologies, and mitigating technologies. One of the most promising avenues towards future gravitational wave detectors is the use of cryogenically cooled silicon mirrors and 2µm wavelength lasers.
Your goal in this project is to build an experiment that monitors the flexing behaviour of mechanical oscillators in vacuum to investigate coated samples. We want to measure the time constants and quality factors that determine the amplitude decay of the oscillator modes. The experiment reveals the difference in time constants before and after coatings are deposited and lets us extract estimates for the internal friction in the coatings, the material property that is the main cause for thermal noise in mirror coatings.
The Centre for Gravitational Astrophysics offers a collaborative, diverse, and supportive research environment across the full breadth of gravitational wave discovery. The Centre is a joint effort of RSAA and RSPhys, and hosts a node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav).
A working knowledge and laboratory experience with optics and lasers is recommended. Computational and programming skills (e.g. Python, MATLAB, Finite Element Analysis) are preferred. The project scope can be adjusted according to student level.