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Rev Sci Instrum. 2007 Apr;78(4):046102.

Developing an optical chopper-modulated capacitive probe for measuring surface charge.

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Department of Physics and Astronomy, Trinity University, San Antonio, TX 78212, USA.


Gravitational-wave observatories such as Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) use suspended optics in a Michelson interferometer configuration to measure strains in space between 10 Hz and 3 kHz. One potential noise source in this frequency range is the buildup and motion of surface charge on the optics, which can generate fluctuating electric fields, interfere with position control, and reduce reflectance by attracting dust to the optical surface. We have developed a capacitive probe to measure the magnitude and relaxation time of surface charge deposited on smaller test optics in high vacuum ( approximately 10(-5) Torr). Our device modulates capacitance with a tuning-fork optical chopper between probe and sample, chosen for vacuum compatibility and minimal cost. We have found that the probe has a resolution of (3.5+/-0.5)x10(5) e(-)cm(2) in air, on the order of charging levels that could contribute noise to Advanced LIGO, and sufficient for measuring relaxation times on test optics.

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