Installation of a worldwide unique technology in the German-British gravitational wave observatory GEO600 is documented in a video diary

The first series will start on 06.16.2009 at 11 a.m.
during the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) Launch Luncheon,
Wissenschaftsforum Berlin,
10117 Berlin, Germany
presented by the President of the DFG, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Matthias Kleiner

June 10, 2009

A new series presented by DFG Science TV under the title “The wave hunters – do Einstein’s gravitational waves ripple through the universe?” will be launched soon. It deals with the installation of a unique technology into the German-British Gravitational Wave Observatory GEO600. Scientists from the QUEST Excellence Cluster are involved. They accompany the exciting path of “sqeezed light” from the realm of laboratory experiments into the real-life environment of the GEO600 detector.

The trailer for the video diary can already be viewed on dfg-science-tv.de.

The QUEST junior scientists Dr. Henning Vahlbruch and Alexander Khalaidovski of the Albert Einstein Institute (AEI) in Hannover and their research work are the focus of a film project that will soon be on the Internet TV portal of the German Research Association. What is special is that the scientists take the camera into their own hands. For three months, they will be reporting week by week in short three-minute films about their research project concerning how to squeeze light in order to measure miniscule changes in length with a precision that is unique world-wide.

In their video notebook, Henning Vahlbruch and Alexander Khalaidovski will be explaining why gravitational waves are so exciting, as well as attempts to measure them and how they and their colleagues at AEI have developed the method of squeezed light that is now being tested. Above all, they tell the story of their work, of the obstacles they encounter and the successes they achieve. They will be reporting during a trip to the USA and on experimental developments at the laboratory of the GEO600 observatory in Ruthe. If the incorporation of the new technology into the gravitational wave detector is successful, then GEO600, one of the most sensitive measuring instruments in the world, would be significantly improved in its measuring accuracy.

The two junior scientists will be followed on camera with the help of young colleagues from the Group of Prof. Roman Schnabel of the AEI. Michael Britzger, Tobias Westphal, Henning Ryll and Tobias Vockeroth (QUEST) have taken over the roles of director, camera and sound engineers.

They learned the basics for this undertaking at a DFG workshop. Since the end of April, they have been observing the scientific work from an unusual perspective.

Henning Vahlbruch and Alexander Khalaidovski are close to completing their research work on so-called “squeezed light”. Their work will constitute an important milestone in improving the sensitivity of the GEO600 Gravitational Wave Detector.

Together with their colleagues at AEI, they are preparing to be the first research group in the world to incorporate quantum-optical experiments with “squeezed light” in GEO600. For the first time quantum physics, which deals with the smallest of particles, will be used to explore the greatest expanse of all, the universe.

GEO600

The GEO600 gravitational wave observatory in Ruthe near Hannover is a major research project involving the Hannover QUEST Excellence Cluster. Together with the American LIGO detectors and the French-Italian Virgo project, the endeavour is being undertaken to directly measure the gravitational waves first predicted by Albert Einstein. This would make it possible to see and hear areas of our universe, as well as to better understand space and time.

The measurement of gravitational waves is an international challenge because extremely powerful and precise measurement technologies are required to monitor these weak signals. The QUEST and GEO600 scientists in Hannover are world leaders in this field. For example, they have developed new methods in laser cooling and atom interferometry that make it possible to use the quantum nature of light and matter particles as tools.

GEO600 is regarded as a think tank for gravitational wave detectors. While partner projects are currently preparing for the next round of measurements, using the most advanced lasers in the world for the first time – that were themselves developed in Hannover - GEO600 is already one step further. In the coming months GEO600 will, for the first time, be working with compressed light and a compressed vacuum - technologies that will be used in the next generation of gravitational wave observatories.

Albert Einstein Institute (AEI) Hannover

At the Albert Einstein Institute in Hannover, the Max Planck Society and the Leibniz Universität Hannover together pursue experimental gravitational wave research. This includes basic research, as well as applied research in the fields of laser physics, vacuum technology, vibration insulation, as well as classical optics and quantum optics. Further research focuses on the development and realization of algorithms for data analysis involving various types of sources for gravitational radiation. Together with the theoretical part of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics located in Potsdam, the Albert Einstein Institute constitutes a unique centre for gravitational physics, in that it covers all aspects thereof.

Together with British research institutes, the AEI Hannover is operating the Gravitational Wave Detector GEO600 in Ruthe near Hannover. The Institute's scientists are also involved in LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna), the planned gravitational wave detector in space. This joint project of NASA and ESA will be measuring gravitational waves in space from 2021 onwards and will, for the first time, be able to "hear" more deeply into space than ever before.

The Hannover QUEST Excellence Cluster

In the context of the Quest Excellence Cluster, six Institutes of the Leibniz Universität Hannover and five other research institutions from Lower Saxony and Bremen are carrying out unique research on the quantum limit. The aim of this scientific work is to answer very fundamental questions of physics - including the nature of the structure and fundamental forces of our universe. With unprecedented precision, QUEST scientists will use their new measurement technologies to explore physical phenomena that are not yet understood. Research is being pursued on individual atoms, atom interferometers, atomic quantum sensors, lasers and atomic clocks, as well as in the astronomy of gravitational waves and in the area of earth observation and geodesy.

The Scientific institutions involved in QUEST are:

•     Leibniz Universität Hannover

      Institute of Quantum Optics (IQ)

      Institute of Gravitational Physics (IGP)

      Institute of Theoretical Physics (ITP)

      Institute of Solid State Physics (IFKP)

      Institute of Soil Surveying (IFE)

      Institute for Applied Mathematics (IFAM)

•     Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute/AEI), Hannover

•     Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH), Hanover

•     Gravity wave detector GEO600, Ruthe

•     Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB), Braunschweig

•     Center of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM), Bremen

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