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Sensors used to unlock secrets of the universe to be commercialised

Research & Development

SENSORS developed for the groundbreaking Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) are being commercialized for use as optical metrology tools.

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The University of Adelaide developed highly sensitive Hartmann Wavefront Sensors in South Australia for the LIGO Detectors used to directly detect the cosmic gravitational waves, which made global headlines last month.

Although not used, the university also developed high-powered lasers for the project, which are now being modified for potential application in the defence, gas and wind technology industries.

The basic concept of the Hartmann Sensor has been around for a long time and was initially used to characterize mirrors for optical scientific telescopes but languished as the optical astronomy community became more interested in Shack-Hartmann Wavefront Sensors.

University of Adelaide’s Head of Physics Associate Professor Peter Veitch said  the interesting part about his highly sensitive Hartmann Sensors was their ability to perform at a variety of different optical wavelengths.

“If you look through a pair of spectacles you’ll see that the light coming from an object is adjusted, or distorted so that when it gets to your eye you can see it clearly,” he said.

“But with the Hartmann sensor it can not only look at what the optical system – the lens in this case – does to visible light, it can also work in the infrared, the near-infrared, the mid-infrared, the far infrared and even down in the UV.

“That’s a capability that is not available currently and that’s why we’re going to try to commercialise it.”

Assoc Prof Veitch said there was a wide range of potential applications for the sensors.

“It’s a metrology tool that is very important for any state-of-the-art optical, laser physics, photonic application,” he said.

“They might even be useful in the semi-conductive industry for measuring the flatness of silicon wafers before you deposit structures on them – there are a variety of applications and really it’s a matter of trying to come up with a product that will be attractive to industry.”

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story.

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