The Australian International Gravitational Research Centre is part of the Australian Consortium for Interferometric Gravitational Astronomy (ACIGA), and was established in 1990 to enable collaborative research providing a national focus in a major frontier in physics: the detection of gravitational waves and the development of gravitational astronomy. Through strong national and international participation, the research centre concentrates on the development of advanced technologies driven by the goal of the next generation large-scale gravitational observatory construction.
Gravitational waves created during the violent birth of the Universe, and through the formation and collisions of black holes, are thought to fill all of space, creating vibrations that make everything in the universe jiggle, much like boats floating on a rippling sea.
Over 40 years physicists have developed more and more sensitive detectors, and today new detection technology is expected to be able to detect known sources – neutron stars that coalesce and merge to form black holes – within the next few years. Coalescing pairs of black holes and many other sources are also likely to be detected but because they are invisible in electromagnetic waves their population is uncertain.
The Australian International Gravitational Research Centre, within the School of Physics, is part of international efforts aiming to discover gravitational waves and harness the new spectrum for the purposes of gravitational astronomy. It has been a leading research centre for gravitational waves for more than 35 years, and is a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration that includes more than 1000 scientists across 17 countries, led by MIT and Caltech. The UWA research centre has generated more than 500 research papers, many books and conference proceedings.
Recent discoveries and outcomes include the first detailed prediction of parametric instability in advanced gravitational wave detectors; introduction of the three mode opto-acoustic parametric amplifier; delineating the upper limits on gravitational waves from the big bang; the use of squeezed light to increase detector sensitivity and the first observation of three mode parametric instability in a free space optical cavity.
The research centre includes a special remote facility, the Gingin Gravitational Wave Research Facility which was developed in an Australia-wide collaboration. The facility contains huge clean room laboratories and an accommodation facility where researchers can stay for extended periods. The main equipment, an 80m scale high optical power laser interferometer facility is used for developing and testing new techniques for the next generation of large-scale gravitational wave detectors. It is proposed that locally developed state-of-the-art technologies will be used for developing a large scale international observatory on the 50 square kilometre Gingin site provided by the WA Government. Beside the Gingin Facility is a major public outreach facility called the Gravity Discovery Centre.
- LIGO Scientific Collaboration