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U.S. and U.K. science funding agencies have earmarked $30 million in additional funding aimed at significantly increasing the sensitivity of gravitational wave observatories around the globe.
Improvements to the global gravitational wave network, with a third LIGO detector in India targeted to become operational at about the same time as ALIGO+ in 2025, are expected to include strides in quantum optics, quantum information theory, materials science, optical technology, precision metrology, and physical standards.
The $30 million Advanced LIGO Plus (ALIGO+) project will improve the two existing laser interferometer gravitational wave observatories (LIGO) in the United States, located in Livingston, La., and Hanford, Wash., and will be included as standard in the new LIGO India facility from the mid-2020s.
The continued progress in gravitational wave science is getting a boost from the U.S. National Science Foundation with $20.4 million in funding for ALIGO+, and from U.K. Research and Innovation (UKRI) for £10.7 million (US$14.1 million), with additional support from the Australian Research Council.
“This award ensures that LIGO, which made the first historic detection of gravitational waves in 2015, will continue to lead in gravitational wave science for the next decade,” said NSF Director France Córdova.
The improvements to the detectors, he added, will include techniques from quantum mechanics that refine laser light, as well as new mirror coating technology, and the twin LIGO observatories will significantly increase the number and strength of their detections.
“Advanced LIGO Plus will reveal gravity at its strongest and matter at its densest in some of the most extreme environments in the cosmos,” Cordova noted. “These detections may reveal secrets from inside supernovae and teach us about extreme physics from the first seconds after the universe’s birth.”
In addition to the developments in the U.S., U.K., and Australia and the new facility planned for India, Italy and Japan have detectors as well, forming a global alliance in the research of gravitational waves.
Gravitational waves are ripples in space caused by massive cosmic events such as the collision of black holes or the explosion of supernovae. They are not electromagnetic radiation, and as a result were undetectable until the technological breakthroughs at LIGO.READ MORE