A new torsion pendulum for gravitational reference sensor technology development

Rev Sci Instrum. 2017 Jun;88(6):064502. doi: 10.1063/1.4985543.


We report on the design and sensitivity of a new torsion pendulum for measuring the performance of ultra-precise inertial sensors and for the development of associated technologies for space-based gravitational wave observatories and geodesy missions. The apparatus comprises a 1 m-long, 50 μm-diameter tungsten fiber that supports an inertial member inside a vacuum system. The inertial member is an aluminum crossbar with four hollow cubic test masses at each end. This structure converts the rotation of the torsion pendulum into translation of the test masses. Two test masses are enclosed in capacitive sensors which provide readout and actuation. These test masses are electrically insulated from the rest of the crossbar and their electrical charge is controlled by photoemission using fiber-coupled ultraviolet light emitting diodes. The capacitive readout measures the test mass displacement with a broadband sensitivity of 30 nm∕Hz and is complemented by a laser interferometer with a sensitivity of about 0.5 nm∕Hz. The performance of the pendulum, as determined by the measured residual torque noise and expressed in terms of equivalent force acting on a single test mass, is roughly 200 fN∕Hz around 2 mHz, which is about a factor of 20 above the thermal noise limit of the fiber.