There can be a lot of things happening in one year but I can say with confidence that the time passed since the last time I wrote here has been among the richest for any people slightly involved in the field of gravitational wave research. On the 14th September 2015, our detectors “heard” the first signal that after careful analysis could be attributed to a gravitational wave. Five months later, media amplified the news of the discovery to the ears of everyone.

When, in 2013, I learned about the detection of the Higgs Boson, I wasn’t involved in any way in particle physics. I still measured as a physicist the importance of the discovery and couldn’t help feeling happy for the scientists that worked on it. This time it is different: not only is the discovery at least of the same greatness but also I am part of the community working in the field of research. Let’s be honest, it happened too soon for my own work to contribute to this historical moment. However, it is the continuous renewal and expansion of the scientific group that has led to success and I am still proud to be among the latest (and hopefully not the last) ones who joined it. Fortunately my project has other expected outcomes that the very first detection of gravitational waves. A step surely is over, but it won’t stop there.

Actually, just as my project didn’t really contribute to the discovery, the latter had no noticeable impact in my life at work. Due to not having a group specialised in the field here, at Gooch and Housego, there were no kind of celebration or media exposure as for most of the other institutions and life just went on in the company. However it doesn’t mean that I will disconnect myself from the network and I keep looking for opportunities to liaise with the GW community. Therefore, after meeting with some of the ESRs and other students for a school in Birmingham in last January, I will attend the GWADW conference in Elba at the end of May. This is one of the main annual events for any scientist involved in GW research and I am looking forward to meet a larger part of the community here. It will also be for me the first opportunity I get to present my work at a conference since I started this project. And speaking of my work, here is an update on the progress made during the last year.

Last time I reported on the successful bonding that was promising for characterisation trials. As a reminder, we plan to use silicate bonding to make compound components with better optical performance than their monolithic counterparts. I am particularly interested in Phosphate glass and YAG which are two common materials for the gain media of solid state lasers such as the ones used in aLIGO (but also in more common applications). In the past twelve months I have focused on the optical performances of bonded Phosphate glass, YAG samples being a bit slower to get and prepare. First trials show that the Light Induced Damage Threshold (i.e. the limiting power a component can withstand without being permanently damaged) is high enough with regards to the common requirements. The light absorption of the bond doesn’t seem to induce any problem either, although more tests are planned to confirm it. The reflectivity of the bond however is higher than desired and I am studying alternative solutions to bring it down. On the whole there doesn’t seem to be any insurmountable drawback in using this technique and we are now starting to think about potential component designs and testing.

And that will be it for this time. There has been a few more done in the course of the year but I’m willing to focus on the projects that gave promising results or will be pursued during next year. I’m looking forward to going further and sharing the interesting things I’ll find!

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