New laser mode sensor to probe the interiors of neutron stars

New laser breakthrough to help to understand gravitational waves.


LIGO, Virgo, and KAGRA gravitational-wave detectors store vast amounts of optical power, and multiple pairs of mirrors are employed to maximize the quantity of laser light stored along the detector’s massive arms. However, each pair contains minor distortions that scatter light away from the laser beam’s ideal shape, causing additional noise in the detector, lowering sensitivity, and forcing the detector offline.

The Telecoms industry experiences the same problem. Hence Telecom scientists have developed a way to measure the eigenmodes using a simple apparatus, but it’s not sensitive enough for our purposes.

As an all-in-one solution, gravitational wave scientists from The University of Western Australia have led the developement of a new laser mode sensor with unprecedented precision. As reported in their press release, this new laser breakthrough could be used to probe the interiors of neutron stars and test the fundamental limits of general relativity.

Research Associate from UWA’s Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav-UWA), Dr. Aaron Jones, said, “We had the idea to use a metasurface – an ultra-thin surface with a special pattern encoded in a sub-wavelength size – and reached out to collaborators who could help us make one.”

Scientists have come up with a proof-of-concept that is over one thousand times more sensitive than the original apparatus developed by telecom scientists. Scientists are now looking forward to translating this work into gravitational wave detectors.

OzGrav-UWA Chief Investigator Associate Professor Chunnong Zhao said“the development is another step forward in detecting and analyzing the information carried by gravitational waves, allowing us to observe the universe in new ways.”

“Solving the mode sensing problem in future gravitational wave detectors is essential if we are to understand the insides of neutron stars and further our observation of the universe in a way never before possible.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Aaron W. Jones, Mengyao Wang, et al. Metasurface Enhanced Spatial Mode Decomposition. DOI: 10.48550/arXiv.2109.04663
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