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Categoría: Física Experimental de Alta Energía

Mirror Project, Manufacturing of State of the Art Technology from the V Region for High Energy Physics

Our country has become a world class astronomical center, reflected in the major observatories situated in the desert, like ALMA and proximately, the largest optical telescope proposed by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the E-ELT (European Extremely Large Telescope), intended to be built on the Armazones Hill in the Antofagasta region and it will count with a primary mirror measuring 39-meters in diameter, turning it into the world’s largest optical-near infrared telescope. This kind of project, translates not only into a relevant advance for research, but also represents an opportunity for technological development; since most of the parts that make up these mega structures are manufactured abroad by highly specialized suppliers.

Our country has become a world class astronomical center, reflected in the major observatories situated in the desert, like ALMA and proximately, the largest optical telescope proposed by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the E-ELT (European Extremely Large Telescope), intended to be built on the Armazones Hill in the Antofagasta region and it will count with a primary mirror measuring 39-meters in diameter, turning it into the world’s largest optical-near infrared telescope. This kind of project, translates not only into a relevant advance for research, but also represents an opportunity for technological development; since most of the parts that make up these mega structures are manufactured abroad by highly specialized suppliers.

Against this background, a team from the Scientific and Technological Center of Valparaiso (CCTVal) of the Santa Maria University, is working in a new project denominated Mirror, with the aim of manufacturing carbon fiber mirrors, similar to the ones used in particle detection in the Ring-Imaging Cherenkov detectors; used in High Energy Physics research, nuclear physics and astrophysics experiments. Unlike mirrors made of other materials, these ones count with a series of specific features that make them ideal for the detection of Photons.

Due to this, the team in charge of Mirror visited the Campana Observatory with the purpose of receiving instruction in the maintenance procedure for the mirrors used in the telescopes for astronomical studies.

Technical Visit to the Campana Observatory

Located in the Andes Mountains, between the third and fourth regions, the Campana Observatory has been operative in Chile since 1969 and it counts with different kinds of far reaching telescopes, like the Magellan Telescope considered the best imaging telescope in the world. The visit was carried out by Sebastian Zuñiga, Electronics Engineer and Wladimir Ibañez, Doctor in Physics, both collaborators in Mirror.

The professionals working in the project toured the Observatory’s facilities, where not only did they visit the observation rooms and telescopes, but they were also trained in the maintenance procedures required by the mirrors that make up these telescopes, fundamental process for the manufacturing of carbon fiber mirrors that the team seeks to develop and that must fulfill with specific features of: flexibility, curvature and reflectivity for its instrumental usage, “compared to the mirrors used in astronomy, these are required to be more flexible, its function is for detection, not for resolution, plain speaking they will capture photons, measured in a subsequent process. Afterwards, if we are capable of perfecting the technique, we could elaborate high complexity mirrors like the ones used in astrophysics”, Sebastian Zuñiga explains.

The multidisciplinary team’s work will be aimed, on its first stage, at mastering the process and manufacturing technique of carbon fibers mirrors. The proceeding entails the proper use of equipment, mirror elaboration and the implementation of a process called sputtering, which allows the deposit of aluminum particles that will form a layer and will cover one of the mirror’s surfaces; process that is often carried out in Las Campanas, as Sebastian Zuñiga indicates: “Once the mirrors are designed, we have to add to them an aluminum cover to improve their reflectivity and that is something often done in the observatories. Therefore, we need to design our own chamber, to have it here as part of the mirror production equipment. We visited La Campana because they have a lot of experience and years working on mirror sputtering, a routine work procedure performed in the Observatory. In addition, we wanted to see their vacuum chamber and learn the procedure’s technical details”.

Furthermore, the carbon fiber mirrors have the advantage of being lighter in comparison to the ones made of glass, which are too dense for the purpose contemplated by the CCTVal project. As explained by the engineer, who will be in charge of the Mirror’s quality control, “we have already produced the first carbon fiber prototypes, during this stage we are doing two things in parallel. On one hand, we are designing the sputtering chamber- that was the visit’s objective- to learn the technical details and on the other hand, we are manufacturing the first mirrors in our laboratory. Because the prototyping stage requires a lot of skill and manual labor, we need to learn how to do things, which will help us to establish a production protocol”.

In connection to the above, the team will need a vacuum chamber to accomplish the perfect conditions for sputtering. This equipment is not available in the country and  due to this, different possibilities are currently under consideration to either procure the chamber through foreign suppliers (China or USA), or to design their own, which would be advantageous for performing new research and as potential source of businesses, since the technical experience and the inputs would remain available and within the country, “Our objective is to have the infrastructure for the professional design of mirror manufacturing. The project has a lot of potential, in the future we want to obtain experience in the design of a vacuum chamber since ideal conditions are needed in physics research and this is an instrument largely utilized in science in general. We don’t count with that kind of technology in the country, they are only produced abroad”.

The CCTVal team, composed of USM researchers, engineers and technicians, is currently working on their first prototypes, equipment procurement and acquisition of infrastructure needed for the optimal development of the project and to become state of the art managers from Chile to the world.

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Escrito por Super User 29 · Aug · 2016

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