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An innovation in gravitational wave detectors could help decipher cosmic secrets

A significant development in thin layer technology could possibly improve the sensitivity of gravitational wave detectors.

Gravitational waves. Illustration:
Gravitational waves. Illustration:;

New fields have opened up in the study of the universe - and gravitational waves - following a breakthrough made by scientists from the University of the West of Scotland (UWS).

The groundbreaking development in thin layer technology promises to improve the sensitivity of existing and future gravitational wave detectors. The innovation, developed by academics at UWS's Institute for Thin Films, Sensors and Imaging (ITFSI), could increase understanding of the nature of the universe.

Gravitational waves, which Albert Einstein was the first to predict in his theory of general relativity, are ripples in the fabric of space-time caused by the most energetic events in the cosmos, such as black hole mergers and neutron star collisions. The discovery and study of these waves provides valuable insights into the fundamental nature of the universe.

Dr. Carlos García Nunez, senior lecturer in the School of Computers, Engineering and Natural Sciences, said: "At the Institute for Thin Films, Sensors and Imaging we work hard to stretch the boundaries of thin film materials, and research new techniques to deposit them and control their properties to match the requirements of existing and future sensing technologies for the detection of gravitational waves".

"The development of high reflection mirrors with little thermal noise opens up a wide range of applications, from the detection of gravitational waves from cosmological events to the development of quantum computers."

The technique used in this research - originally developed and patented by Professor Des Gibson, director of the institute - could enable the production of thin layers that achieve low levels of "thermal noise". Reducing this type of noise in mirror coatings is essential for increasing the sensitivity of current gravitational wave detectors - and it will be possible to use it to improve other very precise devices such as atomic clocks or quantum computers.

Professor Gibson said: "We are delighted to unveil this innovative thin-layer technology for detecting gravitational waves. This breakthrough is a significant step forward in our ability to explore the universe and decipher its secrets by studying gravitational waves. We believe that this innovation will accelerate the scientific process in this field and open up new discovery possibilities."

"The UWS thin layer technology has already undergone extensive testing and validation in collaboration with renowned scientists and research institutes. The results were received with great enthusiasm, and created expectations for its future influence in the field of gravitational wave astronomy. Albasense Ltd. which belongs to UWS commercializes the technology for stacking coatings".

Thanks to the development of thermal coatings with little noise, future generations of gravitational wave detectors will be more accurate and sensitive to cosmic events. In addition, there will be new solutions for atomic clocks and quantum mechanics, both of which are very relevant to the UN Sustainable Development Goals 7, 9 and 11.

for the scientific article

More of the topic in Hayadan:

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  1. The article does not specify what the degree of improvement of the gravity detector will be. The current detectors are able to pick up gravitational waves from mergers of neutron stars and black holes with a mass that reaches up to a few tens of solar masses, but not those of hundreds and thousands (and millions and billions) of solar masses, so even after this improvement there will be room for many more shots, and among other things to launch Gravitational wave detector for space. The plans are already underway for a launch in 2037 (LISA).

  2. Very interesting article. If the developments come to fruition and become a real tool, this may save the need, at least for now, to build and launch (in parts) a huge gravitational wave telescope into space. Nevertheless, it is an additional "sense" beyond sight that can provide new insights and breakthrough discoveries.

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