STFC has today (Tuesday 29 June) allocated £9.4million to UK universities and institutes for gravitational wave research, with hopes to continue the ground-breaking science.
Gravitational wave research has been conducted at the University of Glasgow for more than 50 years. Glasgow academics, including Professor Sir James Hough, made key contributions to the development of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors in the United States.
The LIGO detectors made the first direct observations of gravitational waves from colliding black holes in 2015, a century after Albert Einstein first theorised the waves’ existence.
Professor Sheila Rowan, director of the University of Glasgow’s Institute for Gravitational Research, said: "We’re pleased to be continuing our work on gravitational wave research with the support of the Science and Technology Facilities Council.
"Here at Glasgow, we led the development of the suspension system which holds the LIGO detectors’ mirrors in place, helping to make possible the historic first detection of gravitational waves in September 2015. Our researchers have also made vital contributions to the ongoing LIGO upgrade programme and the sophisticated data analysis which underpins each detection.
"STFC funding has been vital in enabling our work and the work of our partners in gravitational research across the UK, which has been and continues to be vital to the international LIGO collaboration. As more detectors come online around the world, the field of gravitational wave astronomy will continue to expand, and we’re proud to be part of it."
The new STFC funding will support new research from a consortium involving the University of Glasgow, Strathclyde University, the University of the West of Scotland and Lancaster University. The Universities of Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Nottingham and Portsmouth will also share in the funding.
The funding will support projects including:
- Realising the full scientific potential of the O4 and O5 observing runs at the Advanced LIGO and VIRGO gravitational wave detectors, including substantial increases in detector sensitivity and subsequent increases in the rate of observed events such as black hole mergers.
- Fundamental research on suspension systems/materials and dielectric coatings at room and cryogenic temperatures essential for successful operation of the Advanced LIGO+ and Virgo+ detectors and associated planned upgrades, and strategically critical for any future generation of detectors.
- Support for Advanced LIGO operations, underpinning UK involvement in the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and access to observing data.
- Exploiting gravitational wave data to answer fundamental theoretical questions about the nature of the universe and expanding on the standard model of particle physics.
Using gravitational wave data to produce modelling on possible nature of dark matter and dark energy.
Professor Grahame Blair, STFC Executive Director of Programmes, said: "Today’s exciting news from the gravitational wave community shows that space still holds secrets to be uncovered in this dynamic field of research.
"From first witnessing these ripples in space-time a few short years ago, we are now seeing a rich harvest of new observations coming in.
"This is the first time scientists have ever witnessed an event of this kind, and it goes to show why continuing to fund this research is vital in enhancing our understanding of the Universe."