Scientists have been using special detectors called interferometers to detect gravitational waves: disturbances to the curvature of space-time that occur as a result of massive energetic processes happening somewhere in the Universe. Now, astronomical physicist Hafizah Noor Isa of the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) is investigating how to fine-tune the surface coatings on interferometer mirrors to improve their sensitivity for detecting these waves.
When a gravitational wave occurs, it disrupts the laser beams that are reflected by suspended mirrors inside interferometers. For this to happen, all other sources of ‘noise’ that could disrupt this process need to be reduced. Isa studies the coatings that are used on mirrors for this process.