Gravitational waves, our components in vacuum pumps

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L'impianto Virgo che ha rilevato le onde gravitazionali.
The company produces a variety of components in these devices used in the Virgo and Ligo systems where the waves were detected.

Ecor International can also claim to have contributed to the discovery of gravitational waves. The recent news that has gone global will allow interesting developments in the world of physics and astronomy research: Ecor International has been involved in the construction of components for ion pumps for Ultra-High Vacuum  for its customer Agilent Technologies. These products have been used in the Ligo systems (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) in Washington, and Virgo in Cascina, near Pisa, which identified the waves.

In detail, there are three components produced by the company and used in these systems. The first is the “feed through” and is an electric loop in ceramic, steel, and a copper and gold alloy. Ecor International carries out the assembly and high vacuum furnace brazing processes. The completely metal furnace allows the production of a cleaner component, an essential condition in view of the final use.

An electric loop produced by Ecor International, component for Advanced Mechanics.
The “feed through”, an electric loop produced by Ecor International.

The second component produced is the anode: it is a stainless steel electrode fitted inside the pump whose purpose, by means of reactions, is to capture residual particles inside the pump. To produce them, Ecor International has used laser welding instead of the more common electric spot welding, favouring a more consistent result, creating a reliable product and boosting process speeds.

An anode, component for Advanced Mechanics, produced by Ecor International.
The anode.

Finally, the company has also produced some pump enclosures in stainless steel to house the components, and realised by automatic welding robots.

The Agilent Ultra-High Vacuum pumps have had an important role in the discovery of the gravitational waves as they were used to maintain the vacuum conditions which are essential to the operation of the Ligo and Virgo systems. They consist of two enormous tubes respectively 4 and 3 km in length, positioned in an L-shape, i.e., perpendicular to each other. within which the waves were detected. The interferometers that measured the space-time ripples caused by their passage use special ion pumps.

The ion pumps for Ultra-High Vacuum.

The creation of an ultra-high vacuum clean and free of fluctuations, with reliable and continuous operations, and totally vibration-free, is a fundamental condition for these detectors that must work without interruption.