Technology Development and Migration
Advanced LIGO is a world-leading observatory designed to detect gravitational waves from the most violent events in the Universe. For Advanced LIGO to succeed, technology has been developed by LIGO scientists and engineers to measure displacements less than 1/10,000 the diameter of an atomic nucleus. Innovations in areas as diverse as lasers, optics, metrology, vacuum technology, chemical bonding and software algorithm development have resulted directly from this pioneering work.
How LIGO Technology is Transferred
The classical mechanism for technology transfer is through the creation of patents. Inventors write patents on their inventions and companies license the technology to create new product lines, to improve existing products, even occasionally to launch new companies. We cite several examples of patent creation in our case study portfolio including the side pumped zig-zag slab laser, the EUCLID displacement sensor, oxide bonding of silicon carbide, laser beam shaping and high power electro-optical modulator devices.
Often in the modern world patents are not issued at all. Instead, news of technological breakthroughs spread through the scientific literature and by word-of-mouth to improve the art in the commercial arena. An example of this is the use of the LIGO prestabilized laser scheme to improve flaw detection in carbon aircraft composite structures.
A third mechanism of technology transfer occurs in work partnerships with vendors. In these collaborations, vendors are often spurred to adopt new technologies or to develop new techniques that allow them to manufacture devices meeting higher specifications than were previously available. Examples of this include the development by coating vendors of lower loss and more uniform optical coatings, and a laser product line in the iLIGO 10 watt laser.
A fourth mechanism involves technology which is adopted by other areas of science. In these cases the innovations of GW technology spread to other scientific disciplines, often because GW technology pushes the envelope of measurement and noise. For example, the use of continuous sinusoidal wave data analysis algorithms to improve the analysis of data from the FERMI-LAT experiment, or the use of GW technology in the search for Holographic geometry.
A final mechanism is best described as an observation of the "law of unintended consequences." New technology makes its way into the commercial arena. Suddenly the whole commercial or technological landscape changes and opportunities emerge no one ever before expected. Two examples of this in our portfolio are the creation of Stanford Photo-Thermal systems, and the opportunity for JDSU to acquire new materials processing technology through the acquisition of Lightwave Electronics. Neither of these serendipitous events was planned or anticipated.
Our case studies describe technology that has arisen in the gravitational wave community over the past 35 years. You'll see the following categories of developers and development: Enabling technology from the pre-LIGO Lab era, Technology from Initial LIGO, Technology from Advanced LIGO and Technology from LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) members outside of LIGO Lab.
Next: Explore technology transfer case studies.