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  1. Abstract We report on the development and extensive characterization of co-sputtered tantala–zirconia (Ta 2 O 5 -ZrO 2 ) thin films, with the goal to decrease coating Brownian noise in present and future gravitational-wave detectors. We tested a variety of sputtering processes of different energies and deposition rates, and we considered the effect of different values of cation ratio η = Zr/(Zr + Ta) and of post-deposition heat treatment temperature T a on the optical and mechanical properties of the films. Co-sputtered zirconia proved to be an efficient way to frustrate crystallization in tantala thin films, allowing for a substantial increase of the maximum annealing temperature and hence for a decrease of coating mechanical loss φ c . The lowest average coating loss was observed for an ion-beam sputtered sample with η = 0.485 ± 0.004 annealed at 800 °C, yielding φ ¯ c = 1.8 × 1 0 − 4 rad. All coating samples showed cracks after annealing. Although in principle our measurements are sensitive to such defects, we found no evidence that our results were affected. The issue could be solved, at least for ion-beam sputtered coatings, by decreasing heating and cooling rates down to 7 °C hmore »−1 . While we observed as little optical absorption as in the coatings of current gravitational-wave interferometers (0.5 parts per million), further development will be needed to decrease light scattering and avoid the formation of defects upon annealing.« less
  2. Photo-induced thiol-ene crosslinking of allyl-functionalized cellulose nanocrystal (CNC)/polymer nanocomposites allows access to films that mimic the water-enhanced mechanical gradient characteristics of the squid beak. These films are prepared by mixing the functionalized CNCs and polymer in a solvent before solution casting and drying. The photocrosslinking agents are then imbibed into the film before UV exposure. Reported herein are studies aimed at better understanding the effect of the film preparation procedure, film thickness and the conditions under which the UV treatment is carried out. It was found that when the film is heated at a temperature higher than its glass transition temperature (Tg) during the UV irradiation step there is a greater enhancement in the mechanical properties of the films, presumably on account of more efficient crosslinking between the CNC fillers. Moreover, composite films that were compression molded (at 90°C) before the imbibing step displayed lower mechanical properties compared to the as-cast films, which is attributed to phase separation of the CNC fillers and polymer matrix during this additional processing step. Finally, the film thickness was also found to be a critical factor that affects the degree of crosslinking. For example, thinner films (50 µm) displayed a higher wet modulus ca.more »130 MPa compared to ca. 80 MPa for the thicker films (150 µm). Understanding the processing conditions allows access to a larger range of mechanical properties which is important for the design of new bio-inspired mechanical gradient nanocomposites.« less
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  6. Abstract Isolated neutron stars that are asymmetric with respect to their spin axis are possible sources of detectable continuous gravitational waves. This paper presents a fully coherent search for such signals from eighteen pulsars in data from LIGO and Virgo’s third observing run (O3). For known pulsars, efficient and sensitive matched-filter searches can be carried out if one assumes the gravitational radiation is phase-locked to the electromagnetic emission. In the search presented here, we relax this assumption and allow both the frequency and the time derivative of the frequency of the gravitational waves to vary in a small range around those inferred from electromagnetic observations. We find no evidence for continuous gravitational waves, and set upper limits on the strain amplitude for each target. These limits are more constraining for seven of the targets than the spin-down limit defined by ascribing all rotational energy loss to gravitational radiation. In an additional search, we look in O3 data for long-duration (hours–months) transient gravitational waves in the aftermath of pulsar glitches for six targets with a total of nine glitches. We report two marginal outliers from this search, but find no clear evidence for such emission either. The resulting duration-dependent strain uppermore »limits do not surpass indirect energy constraints for any of these targets.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2023