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New method may help detect gravitational waves

Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016,15:08 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

Melbourne | Scientists have discovered new technology that may identify gravitational waves throughout ‘the observable universe’, instead of detecting them a billion light years away.

The breakthrough could eventually see hundreds of gravity wave ‘events’ being recorded every day, according to Professor David Blair from at The University of Western Australia (UWA).

The cutting-edge technology involved tiny new devices known as ‘cat-flap’ pendulums less than a millimetre in size which would be fitted to existing gravitational wave detectors, Blair said. 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, Blair said.

Blair said UWA researchers were fabricating the first devices using a new ion beam etching machine. Scientists announced in February this year that 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.

The finding confirmed a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opened an unprecedented new window to the cosmos. An international project team has put together gravitational-wave detector equipment used to regularly measure gravitational waves.

The detectors use powerful lasers to measure vibrations of mirrors suspended four kilometres apart at the ends of huge vacuum pipes. Gravitational waves carry information about their dramatic origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained.

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, Blair said