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LED deep UV source for charge management of gravitational reference sensors

Proof mass electrical charge management is an important functionality for the ST-7-LTP technology demonstration flight and for LISA. Photoemission for charge control is accomplished by using deep ultraviolet (UV) light to excite photoelectron emission from an Au alloy. The conventional UV source is a mercury vapour lamp. We propose and demonstrate charge management using a deep UV light emitting diode (LED) source. We have acquired selected AlGaN UV LEDs, characterized their performance and successfully used them to realize charge management. The UV LEDs emit at a 257 nm central wavelength with a bandwidth of ∼12 nm. The UV power for a free-space LED is ∼120 μW, and after fibre coupling is ∼16 μW, more than sufficient for LISA applications. We have directly observed the LED UV light-induced photocurrent response from an Au photocathode and an Au-coated GRS/ST-7 proof mass. We demonstrated fast switching of UV LEDs and associated fast changes in photocurrent. This allows modulation and continuous discharge to meet stringent LISA disturbance reduction requirements. We propose and demonstrate AC charge management outside the gravitational wave signal band. Further, the megahertz bandwidth for UV LED switching allows for up to six orders of magnitude dynamic power range and a number of novel modes of operations. The UV LED based charge management system offers the advantages of small-size, lightweight, fibre-coupled operation with very low power consumption.