Science and Engineering
Gravitational waves have yet to be directly detected. The direct observation of these waves, when it occurs, is expected to initiate new avenues for understanding our universe. For example, detection of gravitational waves is the only known method for directly observing the early universe. A team at Stanford University proposes to build a prototype gravitational wave detector based on recent advances in atom interferometry and atomic clock technology. This approach is uniquely capable of detecting gravity waves in the 0.1 Hz to 10 Hz frequency band, which is ideally suited for studies of the early universe, and which is currently not addressed by any of the major existing detectors (LIGO, Advanced LIGO and the proposed LISA detector). The team will develop the required advanced laser/atom technologies and a 10 m test-bed apparatus to realize a proof-of-concept demonstration of a prototype detector. Theoretical work will pursue improved understanding of the science reach of the proposed detectors and their constraints on new physics. A technological byproduct of this work will be demonstration of a new class of geophysical sensors suited to study of, for example, the Earth’s water table. The work will also result in new tests of quantum mechanics by probing quantum states where interfering particles separate by meter-scale distances and enable new tests of Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
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