New Way to Catch Gravitational Waves

Guest_Jim_* - May 31, 2013 10:36AM in Science & Technology

Einstein's General Theory of Relativity has many implications confounded many scientists of his time and still defy discovery today. One of these is gravitational waves, which are ripples in space-time that will actually change the distance between two points. Typically detecting these waves require massive experiments, miles in size, but researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno have proposed a new design which is much smaller and potentially more sensitive.

A somewhat common way to show gravity in an image is to show a grid being stretched down, beneath a massive object. This makes sense as massive objects, according to general relativity, actually do distort space-time around them. Gravitational ripples can be produced when multiple massive objects pass by each other at high speed, such as two black holes orbiting each other. These waves will then travel throughout space, warping the Universe as they move. To detect them we need systems capable of precisely measuring the distance between two objects. In this new design, these objects are suspend in an optical cavity and cooled with lasers, to minimize fluctuations due to heat and friction.

According to the researchers, who hope to secure funding and build a prototype in the next year, this design should be able to detect gravitational waves in the relatively high frequency range of 50 to 300 kilohertz. Compared to the conventional gravitational wave detector, this new sensor should be at least ten times more sensitive in that range, enabling it to catch waves that others may miss.

Source: University of Nevada, Reno