The sensitivity of high-precision interferometric measurements can be limited by Brownian noise within dielectric mirror coatings. This occurs, for instance, in the optical resonators of gravitational wave detectors where the noise can be reduced by increasing the laser beam size. However, the stability of the resonator and its optical performance often impose a limit on the maximally feasible beam size. In this paper, we describe the optical design of a 10 m Fabry-Perot Michelson interferometer with tunable stability. Our design will allow us to carry out initial commissioning with arm cavities of high stability, while afterward the arm cavity length can be increased stepwise toward the final, marginally stable configuration. Requiring only minimal hardware changes, with respect to a comparable ''static'' layout, the proposed technique will not only enable us to explore the stability limits of an optical resonator with realistic mirrors exhibiting inevitable surface imperfections, but also the opportunity to measure coating Brownian noise at frequencies as low as a few hundred hertz. A detailed optical design of the tunable interferometer is presented and requirements for the optical elements are derived from robustness evaluations.
- THERMAL NOISE