"I'm all shook up," sang Elvis. Well, the King may have been, but researchers at JILA, a joint institute of the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) and the University of Colorado sure aren't. They're building the "most vibration-free platform on Earth," they say. The structure will measure the ever-evasive thermal noise levels--typically unmeasurable due to the slightest mechanical vibration--as well as perform ground-based detection of low-frequency gravity waves coming from the cosmos. The instrument, designed to cancel out low-frequency, long-wavelength vibrations, uses three nested platforms hung on springs, each with six sensitive movement sensors and non-contact magnetic pushers. High-speed electronics activate the magnetic pushers that move the platform in the opposite direction and cancel the vibrations out. NIST researchers say the instrument can reduce vibration by a factor of nearly a million. The principles behind the project may be applicable to industrial processes like fabrication of ultra-small integrated circuits or diamond turning of super-smooth surfaces. Contact: James Faller (303) 492-8509 or Joseph Giaime (303) 492-0448.
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