B'lore joins Einstein's gravity wave chase

B'lore joins Einstein's gravity wave chase

Known as gravity wave, the existence of these cosmic signals were first predicted by Albert Einstein. But they remain elusive till date because gravity waves are too weak to be caught by the detectors on earth.

However, with the detector sensitivity improving manifold in the last few years, two gravity wave observatories in the United States (LIGO) and Europe (VIRGO) are scouring the sky. Even as the searches are on, from years of passive theoretical work India has now forayed into co-developing a new gravity-wave detector, to be set up in Australia, which will be ten-times more sensitive that the existing ones.

Two days ago, Bala Iyer, a physicist at Raman Research Institute, Bangalore, signed the memorandum of understanding on behalf of an Indian consortium with its Australian counterpart.

India will provide 20 per cent of the project cost—approximately about $35 million—and actively participate in developing the detector.

As a first step, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai will make a three-metre-long table-top version of the detector that would be technically as advanced as the full-scale detector. “It is the first gravitational wave experimental project to be launched in India. It is historic in a sense,” Sanjeev Dhurandhar, a scientist from Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune, and one of the key persons in the Indian consortium told Deccan Herald.

“Currently the plan is to participate in the proposed LIGO-Australia detector. But looking ahead, Indian scientists envisage a home detector in the future,” Dhurandhar said. The proposed Australian detector at Gingin will be an extension of the LIGO but with more sensitivity. The detection of gravity-waves – the most enigmatic prediction of Einstein’s theory of relativity – requires extraordinarily sensitive detectors because of their extreme feeble nature.

So far, there has been no direct detection of gravity-waves due to their weakness, but their existence has been established beyond doubt. The new detector will provide an opportunity to observe the waves “in flesh” by their direct detection.

Indian industry could also be partner in developing the gravity wave detector that may be commissioned in another three years time.

The main contribution would have to come from the vacuum and control system industry, said Tarun Sourdeep, another IUCAA scientist.

From the TIFR prototype, the cost would escalate in the actual detector due to the need to maintain vacuum on big scales. “Scaling up of the vacuum system is possible with adequate funding,” Dhurandhar said.

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