World’s largest optical telescope to be sealed with Trelleborg solutions

Swedish engineered polymer firm Trelleborg’s marine and infrastructure operation has been specified by contractor, Cimolai S.p.A, to supply bespoke inflatable and compression seals to the largest optical/near-infrared telescope in the world. The Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), located on top of Cerro Armazones, sits at an altitude of over 3,000 m in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile.

Upon completion in 2025, the ELT, which is owned and will be operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), will gather 15 times more light than today’s largest optical telescopes. Boasting a 39-m primary mirror, ESO’s ELT will also feature ground-breaking adaptive optics technology, that will help correct the distortions in the Earth’s atmosphere, making the images sharper than those taken from space.

Trelleborg will manufacture and supply handmade inflatable and compression seals, that will keep the ELT’s classic dome-shaped enclosure pressurised, airtight from water, heat and dust, and ensure there is no UV exposure within the enclosure.

Andre de Graaf, Sales Director at Trelleborg’s marine and infrastructure operation, commented: “The ELT is a revolutionary scientific project that will address many of the most pressing unsolved questions about our Universe. It will facilitate the advancement of astrophysical knowledge by enabling more detailed studies of planets around other stars, the first galaxies in the Universe, black holes, and the Universe’s dark sector.

“For our solutions to be specified is a impressive feat – one that is testament to our ability to design, manufacture and test bespoke sealing solutions, that provide impenetrable protection for up to 25 years in even the harshest of environments.”