The Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO)
LIGO was the talk of the scientific community in February 2016 when the group announced it had detected gravitational waves that came from a pair of black holes that merged 1.3 billion light years away from Earth.
From seismology to astrophysics
What most people didn’t know about this momentous discovery was that LIGO’s interferometers in Louisiana and Washington included specially adapted high-end broadband seismometers, specifically our Trillium 240 vault seismometers. These instruments are typically used to measure seismic waves originating on the other side of the planet, but as LIGO has demonstrated, can be successfully adapted to measure the minute ripples in space-time.
LIGO first approached Nanometrics in 2008 while preparing for the overhaul of their existing detectors, set to begin in 2010. LIGO needed instrumentation that would be exceptionally reliable as the detectors were to be embedded deep within the innards of kilometres of vacuum tunnels. Any repair job could take months to complete.
We eagerly accepted the custom engineering project, adjusting the Trillium 240 for LIGO’s needs, walking them through the technology and helping with the testing. The final product was delivered in 2010, the year LIGO began their four-year redesign of their interferometers. The new sensors were 10 times more sensitive than the previous versions, and were successful within mere days of their first use.
We are thrilled to have been part of this landmark scientific discovery.