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Title: Development of optical techniques for space-borne laser interferometric gravitational wave detectors
Author: McNamara, Paul William
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 1998
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This thesis deals with aspects of gravitational wave detection relating directly to the proposed LISA mission. The thesis begins with a review of gravitational wave astrophysics, starting with a brief description of the prediction and nature of gravitational radiation as a consequence of General Relativity. A short description of possible astrophysical sources is given along with current estimates of signal sources and strengths. The history of gravitational wave detectors is then briefly outlined, from the early 1960s and the first resonant bar, through to the modern long baseline laser interferometers currently under construction. Discussion then turns to the joint ESA/NASA space-borne interferometer, LISA. LISA involves picometre precision laser interferometry between spacecraft separated by millions of kilometres. Among the considerable technical challenges involved are the need for laser and clock frequency stabilisation schemes, active phase-locked laser transponders and precision telescope design. After an overview of the mission concept, the thesis deals with the issue of gravitational wave signal extraction from the various interferometric data streams produced in the six LISA spacecraft. A scheme for obtaining the necessary transfer of clock stability around the set of spacecraft is presented. LISA is planned to use diode-pumped solid state lasers. Experiments carried out to characterise the frequency noise of such a laser over the timescales of interest to the LISA mission are then described. Active frequency stabilisation to a triangular Fabry-Perot reference cavity is undertaken, with independent measurements of residual frequency noise obtained from a second analyser cavity. In LISA, the divergence of the laser beams as they propagate along the long arms of the interferometer means that only a very small amount of light is received by any spacecraft. The phase locking system has to function with this low received intensity and should, ideally, produce a transponded beam with relative phase fluctuations determined by the photon shot noise of the weak received light. A test and demonstration of the phase-locked laser transponder scheme for LISA is then presented. The frequency stabilised laser is used as the master oscillator, and a second identical laser is used as the slave. Results are obtained both from within the stabilisation system and also from out-of-Ioop measurements using an independent optical path. At relative power levels approaching those in LISA, performance close to the shot noise limit was demonstrated over part of the frequency spectrum of interest. Some excess noise was, however, found at milliHertz frequencies, most probably due to thermal effects. The thesis then continues with an investigation of far-field wavefront aberrations caused by errors in the transmitting telescopes originally planned for LISA. Any phase variation across the near field wavefront (defined as the wavefront on the primary mirror), caused, for example, by a mis-alignment of the telescope mirrors, will produce phase variation in the far-field wavefront. Coupled with pointing fluctuations of the incoming light, these wavefront distortions can cause excess displacement noise in the interferometer readout. The starting point of the investigation was to redesign the LISA telescope in order to remove both spherical and coma aberrations. Using Gaussian ray tracing techniques, the effect of near field aberrations on the far field phase was explored. A revised Ritchey-Chretien telescope design is described and numerical simulations presented. Finally the thesis concludes with a summary of the work carried out, setting the results in the context of the development of the LISA mission.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: QB Astronomy ; QC Physics