In 2017, Colorado State University Distinguished Professor Carmen Menoni joined the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) Scientific Collaboration, the global science team honored with that year’s Nobel Prize in Physics for their first-ever direct observation of gravitational waves.
The project draws on Menoni’s internationally-recognized expertise in optical materials, particularly in the growth and characterization of oxide materials used in interference coatings for infrared high-power lasers. Menoni directs the Advanced Thin Film Deposition and Material Processing Laboratory at CSU, one of only a few research teams at a United States academic institution with the expertise and capability to grow and characterize thin film interference structures.
“Right now, the sensitivity of LIGO interferometers is limited by the mechanical loss in the coatings of the test masses,” Menoni said. “Our efforts will aim to improve the coatings to achieve an increase in the sensitivity of the detectors by a factor of 10, as called for by the LIGO roadmap. It’s a very interesting problem from the material and optics points of view. We have a great opportunity here to make a dent in a very difficult problem.”
ULTRABRIGHT, SHORT-WAVELENGTH LASERS AND APPLICATIONS
Menoni’s work on advanced thin films is a key component of her research program in extreme photonics and nano-photonics. She is also widely recognized for her pioneering work in the use of bright beams of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) laser light to demonstrate novel, nanoscale table-top microscopies for imaging and spectroscopy. Her work leverages her longterm collaboration with Colorado State University Distinguished Professor Jorge Rocca , a leader in the development of compact EUV and Soft X-Ray (SXR) lasers. Menoni and Rocca teamed up with University of Colorado, and University of California, Berkeley in the establishment of a successful National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Extreme Ultraviolet Science and Technology . The Center’s work continues today as a CSU Program of Research and Scholarly Excellence, with the support of federal grants and through its active Research Experience for Undergraduates and Teachers programs.
Among the many breakthroughs led by Menoni and her team was the development of a compact extreme ultraviolet light-based microscope for nanoscale imaging, for which they received an R&D 100 Award in 2008. In 2015, Menoni and collaborators reported the development of a new three-dimensional nanoscale molecular imaging technology, selected by Optics and Photonics News as among “the most exciting peer-reviewed optics research to have emerged over the past 12 months.”
Menoni recently announced a partnership with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office through its Nuclear Forensics Research Award (NFRA) program. The team is developing a highly sensitive mass spectrometer enabling detection of trace levels of uranium and other metals. The laser ablation methodology to be applied will also permit three-dimensional, nanoscale imaging of the isotopic content of solid samples.
THE MENONI GROUP
Carmen S. Menoni is a University Distinguished Professor at Colorado State University. She received her Ph.D. in Physics from Colorado State University in 1987. Since 1991, she has been a member of the faculty in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Menoni also holds courtesy appointments in the Department of Chemistry, the School of Biomedical Engineering, and the School of Advanced Material Discovery at CSU. Menoni’s research is in the areas of extreme nano-photonics. She is also actively involved in using bright coherent beams of light of wavelengths between 10-50 nm for optics applications such as imaging and spectrometry.
Menoni leads an active group engaged in the growth and characterization of oxide materials that are the backbone of interference coatings for infrared high power lasers. In 2008 Menoni and her team received an “R&D 100 Award” for the invention of a table-top 46.9 nm wavelength microscope that can capture images in a single nanosecond with wavelength spatial resolution. Menoni is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), the American Physical Society, the Optical Society of America, and SPIE. In 2012, Menoni received CSU’s Scholarship Impact Award, the university’s highest recognition for accomplishments in research, was named a University Distinguished Professor in 2014, and was honored as a University Distinguished Alumnus Employee in 2016. Menoni was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2016, “for distinguished contributions to nanoscale imaging and spectroscopy at extreme ultraviolet wavelengths, and for advancing the science and technology of optical materials and devices.”
Video describing the potential applications of the nanoscale mass-spectral 3D imaging system, including its use in testing the response of cells to new therapeutic drugs.
“Right now, the sensitivity of LIGO interferometers is limited by the coatings in the test masses. We have a great opportunity here to make a dent in a very difficult problem.”
Title illustration: An artistic rendering of two black holes colliding, from which gravitational waves were detected by the LIGO experiment. Credit: SXS Project
Make the connection
Colorado State University was the lead institution for the $32 million National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Center for Extreme Ultraviolet Science and Technology (EUV ERC), established in 2003. Center partners included University of Colorado at Boulder, University of California at Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and 19 industry members.
Today, the EUV ERC continues its mission in research, teaching, and service as a self-sustaining, graduated NSF Center.