Vibration expert Alessandro Bertolini appointed professor in Maastricht

1 September 2023

Effective Sept. 1, Nikhef physicist and vibration expert Alessandro Bertolini has been appointed professor of Gravitational Wave Detection Technologies at Maastricht University.

Bertolini, Italian by birth, is considered a world-renowned expert in the field of vibration damping. He deals with the complicated mechanical systems for perfectly stationary mirrors in gravity wave detectors such as the future Einstein Telescope.

Bertolini studied physics at the University of Pisa, and worked at DESY in Hamburg and, via Nikhef, at the Virgo gravitational wave detector in Italy, where he is currently in technical management. He is closely involved in the construction of the ET Pathfinder in Maastricht, a test facility for new techniques for the Einstein Telescope, among others.

This Einstein Telescope is a new observatory for gravitational waves. It consists of a triangular underground tunnel system measuring 10 by 10 by 10 kilometers with lasers and mirrors. The device can observe minimal space-time vibrations from the universe. Nikhef is working on a bid to build ET in the Meuse-Rhine Euregio border region with Belgium and Germany.

Under Bertolini’s leadership, a Nikhef team of engineers and physicists designed and built a suspension system for mirrors in the ET Pathfinder. The systems are being built into the prototype and tested under operational conditions. The suspension system minimizes movements of the mirrors due to vibrations in the outside world. The smallest movements immediately make measurements of gravitational waves impossible.

In current designs for the Einstein Telescope, the suspensions for the mirrors in the system are 17 meters high. That requires the construction of costly tunnels and halls. Bertolini and his team are working on a suspension that is only half that size. That could reduce ET costs.

Maastricht University and Nikhef are making the special chair for Bertolini possible.