Friday, April 2, 2010

Another "Normal" Day at the Mirror Lab

Some days, you just never quite know in advance (or, at least too far in advance), just how your day will develop at this job.

I had brought in my camera to document the advanced stage of generating for the M3 surface on LSST. Since last posting about it 4 and a half weeks ago, we've been deepening the center curve with extended shifts most days and Saturdays as well. 5 tons (!) of glass later, we are down to less than an inch to remove to our target thickness. The 2 pictures compare pictures from that previous post (on the right), and then again yesterday (Thursday).

I had been busy rounding up some price quotes on generating tools when heard second-hand I'd been asked to take some photos of a luncheon taking place in the Integration Lab section of the Mirror Lab. I had heard rumors of something going on, but usually pay little attention to most of those things.

In fact, this one was part of a "Solar Bus Tour" for regional movers and shakers, and the stop at the Mirror Lab was part of an expo on new technologies developed at the University of Arizona. Roger Angel, the brain trust behind many of the developments that made the Lab and the style of mirrors we make possible, has turned his thinking towards solar power, and his prototypes of high energy photovoltaics was on display with a lot of crowd interest. Just outside the building, a solar powered car, built by a group of engineering students was on display, and driven around the parking lot by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. After the 70 attendees had lunch, they heard from UA President Shelton, Giffords, and some research details from Angel, and Neil Armstrong (no, not the moon guy), who is doing basic research in solar materials in the Chemistry Department. Of course, Arizona is a big proponent of solar energy with the desert air and clear skies, and it has been a bullet point on Giffords resume since she has been in office. Roger Angel points out that ALL the world's energy needs can be met with a 100km (60 miles) square section of desert filled with solar collectors and 15% efficient PV cells (though he admits he hasn't solved the night time issue yet when the sun isn't up - storage for night time use is a problem, but not insurmountable).

After the presentations, all were taken on a tour through the facility showing the polishing of the GMT mirror, and the diamond generating of the LSST, as well as the unveiling of the 6.5 meter SPMT telescope, freshly uncovered from mold cleanout after it's casting last fall. Hearding such a large group through the lab is always a little nerve-wracking with work going on, but it was over soon enough and by mid-afternoon all had returned to "normal".

So you can see you never quite know what to expect you'll get into some days when you go to work!