OPTOMETER: High-precision sensors for thermal control in space missions

Miquel Nofrarias presented his PhD thesis (2007) at the Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya (IEEC) and completed a post-doctoral stay at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hannover. In 2011, he joined the Institute of Space Sciences (CSIC) with a JAE-doc contract until 2014, when he continued as a post-doctoral researcher at the IEEC. He developed his scientific career in the field of gravitational-wave detectors in space, with contributions ranging from thermal diagnostics, optical metrology, or the statistical estimation of parameters. His research has been closely related to industrial development, participating in industrial campaigns in conjunction with leading companies in the sector. ComFuturo Researcher (I edition) at the Institute of Space Sciences, where he developed his project “High-precision sensors for thermal control in space missions“.

Project Summary

Space missions offer us a unique opportunity for the observation of our planet, the Universe, and the study of the laws of Nature. This increase in our knowledge is closely linked to improvements in the sensor technology used on board these satellites. In particular, this is the case for thermal stability measurements on board the satellites: the increasing demand for accuracy and stability of instrumentation translates into increased requirements for thermal stability to prevent the temperature fluctuations from dominating instrumental noise.

The main objective of the OPTOMETER project is the design and development of an innovative, highly accurate, and stable on-chip temperature sensor for use in high sensitivity and environmental purity applications, particularly in space missions. This ambitious goal will be achieved through the use of opto-mechanical microresonators, known as ‘whispering gallery mode resonators’.

These new-generation devices are mainly fabricated in crystalline substrates and with sizes in the micron to millimetre range. Their most outstanding property is that they allow the confinement of a laser beam in the oscillation modes of the microresonator, generating an oscillator of extraordinary purity.

To achieve the final objective, the project is divided into three phases: 1) construction of an ultra-stable thermostat to be used as a test bench allowing the isolation of the sensor from environmental disturbances, 2) realisation of a proof of concept that validates the use of technologies in the very low frequency band, and 3) miniaturisation of the technology to reach a final ‘on-chip’ prototype with the ultimate goal of qualifying the prototype for its space application through a launch opportunity on a nanosatellite.


It proposes the development of a temperature sensor for use in space missions, which require high accuracy and stability in very demanding environments. In turn, the technology developed will be applicable in other scientific and technological fields that require high stability measurements.

Scientific production derived from the ComFuturo Project

Scientific articles

  • M. Armano et al. (2017). (LISA Pathfinder collaboration).  Capacitive sensing of test mass motion with nanometer precision over millimeter-wide sensing gaps for space-borne gravitational reference sensors. PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevD.96.062004


  • M. Armano et al. (2016). (LISA Pathfinder collaboration). Constraints on LISA Pathfinder’s self-gravity: design requirements, estimates and testing procedures. CLASSICAL AND QUANTUM GRAVITY. DOI: 10.1088/0264-9381/33/23/235015


  • M. Armano et al. (2016). (LISA Pathfinder collaboration). Sub-femto-g Free Fall for Space-Based Gravitational Wave Observatories: LISA Pathfinder Results. PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.116.231101


Works presented at conferences

  • A. Torrents; V. Martin; Ll. Gesa; M. NofrariasAn ultra-estable thermal environment in high precision optical metrology. VII Iberian Gravitational Wave Meeting. Poster. Bilbao. 15/05/2017-17/05/2017


  • A. Torrents, Ll. Gesa, V. Martín, I. Mateos, M. NofrariasAn ultra-stable thermostat for low-frequency optical metrology. 11th International LISA Symposium. Poster. Zurich (Switzerland). 05/09/2016 – 09/09/2016