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Sharp Entrepreneurs Make Clever Use Of LIGO Beam Tube And Enclosures

Sharp Entrepreneurs Make Clever Use Of LIGO Beam Tube And Enclosures

- Contributed by Mark Coles

Figure 1. Beam Tube Enclosures At Livingston About 2500 concrete beam tube enclosures have been cast at each of the LIGO Observatory sites to provide protective covers for the beam tube. (See Figure 1. at left.) LIGO requires a very high quality vacuum for the transmission of the laser beam along each arm. (Our goal is 10-9 torr for the partial pressure of hydrogen.) To help achieve this the beam tube steel is baked and cleaned to prevent any contamination of its inner surface. Any accidental rupture of the vacuum, venting in unfiltered air within the beam tube, would be catastrophic. The concrete enclosures therefore were designed to protect the beam tube from hunter's stray bullets or other accidental mishaps that could jeopardize the interferometer.

The enterprising people at Concrete Products of Washington saw an additional use for these protective enclosures. About 40 additional enclosures were fabricated and buried to make a wine cellar for a commercial winery located in the Columbia River Basin wine country. The first results of this use are now available. Look for Terrablanca Merlot 1997 at a wine merchant near you. (There is an arch on the label.)

Coastal Bridge Co., the concrete enclosure fabricator in Louisiana, has also fabricated an additional 12 enclosures which are available for purchase. (So far, they have not been contacted by any Louisiana vineyards.) Figure 2. Beam Tube, Partially Enclosed, At Livingston

Even the beam tube itself, seen in Figure 2. at right, has found additional uses. Chicago Bridge and Iron Co., which fabricated and installed the entire beam tube, fabricated one additional short test section to validate the start up procedures at their Magnolia Beach factory near Denham Springs, La. In the spirit of free enterprise, they cut off a 4 foot length and welded a flat piece on the bottom to make a very large cooking pot which they sold to a restaurant located near the factory.

Visit LaFleur's Seafood Restaurant at the Magnolia Beach Center and ask to see their crawfish boiler. It's made from low hydrogen 304L stainless steel. The crawfish cooked in it taste very good. Julia Child take note!