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Astro Pak Corporation Plays Critical Role In Supporting LIGO

Astro Pak plays critical role in supporting LIGO, confirming Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and detecting evidence of Gravitational Waves.

In February 2016, LIGO (twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatories) announced that a gravitational wave had been detected, confirming Einstein’s hypothesis that gravitational waves would result from the merging of 2 black holes.

Astro Pak provided cleaning for a large number of sizable aluminum and stainless steel plates for LIGO from 2010 – 2013. Cleaning was performed at Astro Pak’s Downey, CA Cleanroom, and the plates would later be installed at LIGO’s facilities located in Washington State and Louisiana. The plates that were made from aluminum, a material that is inherently difficult to precision clean, added significant complexity to achieving the critical cleanliness criteria. In addition, plates exceeded 10 feet diameter and were configured with several thousand holes. The purpose of LIGO was to measure ripples in the fabric of the space-time continuum and seek evidence of gravitational waves.

“Meeting the stringent cleanliness requirements was no easy feat. The cleanliness level required was an unprecedented < 50 nanograms of residue per square centimeter. The cleanliness level was so stringent that the amount of residue naturally existing in our atmosphere is sufficient to re-contaminate the plates beyond allowable limits,” stated Dr. Brent Ekstrand, Astro Pak’s VP of Science & Technology.

Astro Pak worked in conjunction with individuals from MIT, Cal Tech, LIGO, and JPL to gain approval of Astro Pak’s cleaning process, and verification methods. Utilizing newly engineered methods designed specifically for LIGO, Astro Pak met the extraordinary cleanliness levels required for project success. As a result, the achievements of LIGO birthed a new science: Gravitational Wave Astronomy. “We are honored to have played a role in assisting the accomplishment of this historic contribution to Astronomy,” noted Ken Carroll, President of Astro Pak.