UWA breakthrough could see hundreds of gravity wave events recorded every day


UWA PhD student Jiayi Qin and Professor David Blair testing the new technology in The University’s School of Physics.
UWA PhD student Jiayi Qin and Professor David Blair testing the new technology in The University’s School of Physics.

SCIENTISTS at UWA have developed technology to identify gravitational waves throughout ‘the observable universe’ rather than a billion light years away.

Professor David Blair from the Australian International Gravitational Research Centre said the breakthrough could eventually see hundreds of gravity wave ‘events’ being recorded every day.

The Guildford resident said the cutting-edge technology involved tiny devices known as ‘cat-flap’ pendulums less than a millimetre long fitted to existing gravitational wave detectors.

“Currently the detectors can only detect huge tsunami-like waves, but with the new technology we would be able to extend that range about seven times,” Prof Blair said.

“One of our PhD students Jiayi Qin has tested the concept as part of her thesis with very good results and we will now look to test the technology further.”

Prof Blair said UWA’s Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis was making the first devices using a newly-installed $1 million ion beam etching machine.

In February, scientists announced they had observed ripples in the fabric of space-time called gravitational waves, arriving at the earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. Previous story: How Gingin helped to make waves.

The finding confirmed a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opened a window to the cosmos.

UWA and the Gingin Gravitational Research Centre are part of an international team that has spent the past seven years putting together gravitational-wave detector equipment.

The detectors use powerful lasers to measure vibrations of mirrors suspended four kilometres apart at the ends of huge vacuum pipes.

Physicists have concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole.

This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed.

“Gravitational wave technology is already being applied to mineral exploration, time standards, quantum computing, precision sensors, ultra-sensitive radars and pollution monitors,” Prof Blair said.

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