Vamac of Diepenbeek is helping to build pioneering measurement equipment for vacuum chambers of the Einstein Telescope
Supported by POM Limburg and its Dutch counterpart LIOF, Dutch companies SAC and M3 Engineering are joining forces with the Diepenbeek-based production company Vamac. The three players are developing new equipment that can accurately measure dust particles in the vacuum chambers of the Einstein Telescope. This is groundbreaking technology, which might one day be applied to the production of the most advanced computer chips.
The Einstein Telescope is a state-of-the-art research centre researching the origins of the universe, black holes and stars. The triangular telescope, with 10 kilometre-long sides, will be built some 250 metres underground. The Italian island of Sardinia and the border triangle in the Meuse-Rhine region are still in the running to build the observatory. Tom Vandeput, Deputy for the Economy and Chairman of POM Limburg: “Europe will only tie the knot in 2025, but by involving more and more companies, our candidate profile is getting stronger and stronger. The arrival of the telescope is expected to provide €2 billion in investments and 1,500 jobs to the Meuse-Rhine region.
Ice cold vacuum
Gravitational waves are measured by the underground arms of the Einstein Telescope. This is done using laser beams, which are bounced back and forth between mirrors. Precision is key here. To avoid vibrations, the installation is cooled to -260°C and placed in a vacuum to prevent the mirrors from freezing. Constant monitoring of the presence of dust particles – which can cause vibrations – is therefore necessary, but not necessarily straightforward in an icy vacuum.
Through the efforts of POM Limburg and Dutch development company LIOF, two experienced Dutch companies, SAC Netherlands and M3 Engineering, are now joining forces with the Diepenbeek-based Vamac to accurately measure the presence of dust particles in those vacuum chambers. Heerlen-based SAC already developed a dust detection system in the past, which is now being further expanded in collaboration with M3 Engineering engineers. Specifically, it involves a specific casing for the measuring equipment, which can also function in a vacuum. Limburg-based Vamac – which has high-tech customers worldwide – is responsible for manufacturing this casing. This is no coincidence, as the company is a pioneer in 3D printing metal parts.
Like all innovations around the Einstein Telescope, this vacuum measurement also has a wider market. Tom Vandeput: “So-called ‘cleanrooms’, dust-free areas, are increasingly gaining importance. Not only in the healthcare sector, as we will also integrate them at our future Health Campus. However, cleanrooms are also used daily in high-tech industries, for example at companies like ASML, Melexis and imec for the production of computer chips. When it comes to developing electronics, even a small imperfection can lead to massive problems. This kind of dust measurement can then be very important. So this is indeed a pioneering innovation within an important high-tech sector. And all thanks to the Einstein Telescope.”
Since the start of the Einstein Telescope project, POM Limburg has focused on the link between the telescope and businesses. POM guides companies and brings them around the table with knowledge institutions. Tom Vandeput: “The Limburg Einstein success story continues. After Aperam, Calculus and Agrippa, among others, this is the eighth company from our region to offer its services. This not only strengthens our portfolio, but also gives Limburg a solid innovation boost.”