VUB working on mirrors for world's most precise gravitational-wave telescope

Scientists at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) are working on highly specialised mirrors for the Einstein Telescope, a giant underground telescope for monitoring gravitational waves.

According to a theory by Albert Einstein, minute fluctuations in gravitational waves could tell us more about the universe. The intention is that the Einstein Telescope will be even more precise than its predecessors in the US (LIGO) and Italy (VIRGO) and will be able to capture gravitational waves as a result of events in the cosmos.

"The telescope consists of three interferometers, which can sense the smallest fluctuations in gravitational waves travelling through the universe," says professor Michaël Vervaeke of VUB research group B-PHOT. "A signal occurs only at the moment when minuscule changes occur in the length of the telescope. The measuring equipment will be able to measure these changes on an atomic scale."

"The telescope's components have to meet almost impossible standards"

Detecting gravitational waves requires enormous precision, so the telescope's mirrors must be as pure as possible. "The telescope's components have to meet almost impossible standards," says Vervaeke. "We at B-PHOT are working on the mirrors and on the instruments to stabilise and filter the laser sources of the telescope."

The project will be buried somewhere in Europe in a few years. Three possible locations are in the running: one near the border between Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, one on the island of Sardinia, and one in German Saxony. A decision will be made in 2025.


Artist's impression of the underground Einstein Telescope © NIKHEF

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