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First Contact Polymer Helps Enable LIGO's Revolutionary Technology

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, or LIGO, is a national facility responsible for gravitation wave research. Set up as two enormous interferometers located thousands of kilometers apart, LIGO is responsible for the detection and measurement of movement thousands of times smaller than a proton – the most precise measurement taken on Earth.

Challenge

To achieve the remarkable level of sensitivity necessary to detect gravitational waves, both interferometer’s signals must remain uninterrupted. It’s critical that LIGO’s precision optics system - made up of lasers, mirrors, and a photodetector - must be completely free of contamination, particulates, and residue to guarantee the most accurate results possible.

Solution

LIGO's team of scientists tested different cleaning methods, including First Contact Polymer, to determine best practices for the cleaning and protection of LIGO optics.

To compare the results of traditional drag wipe cleaning methods to the First Contact strip coat cleaning system, a test was performed.

On vertical surfaces, Clear First Contact was brushed on, left to dry, and peeled off to reveal an atomically clean surface.


Red First Contact Polymer was used on delicate fused silica LIGO optics, leaving a pristine mirror surface.

Result

Methanol drag wipe cleaning methods left streaks and residue behind.

Figure 1: Cleaning with Methanol Drag Wipe


Before cleaning

After cleaning


Using these scatterometer graphs and corresponding average BRDF count as a general measure of cleanliness, First Contact performs better than drag wiping with clean or dirty methanol.


Figure 2: Cleaning with First Contact

Before cleaning – residue and contaminants are present on the surface of the optic.

After cleaning


As the only cleaning method used, First Contact is proven to clean the surface to the molecular level.

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