£7.1m funding boost for gravitational wave research

World renowned gravitational wave research at the University of Glasgow has been boosted by a significant 5 year, funding grant of £7.1M from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

The Institute for Gravitational Research in the Department of Physics and Astronomy will use the grant to:

• continue its research into the detection of gravitational waves with the UK/German GEO 600 detector * and the US LIGO detectors**

• carry out further research in materials and interferometry*** relevant to an upgraded LIGO detector system, Advanced LIGO, and to a new third generation gravitational wave detector in Europe - the Einstein Gravitational Telescope (ET).

Professor Jim Hough, Director of the Institute for Gravitational Research said: “This is highly encouraging for the future of the gravitational wave field in the UK.”

Gravitational waves - waves in the curvature of space-time generated by the motion of massive objects, such as two stars or two black holes orbiting each other - are a prediction of General Relativity. The Institute for Gravitational Research is developing detectors and signal analysis methods to search for gravitational waves from astrophysical sources.

The detection and study of gravitational radiation is of great scientific importance. It should reveal new information about a variety of astrophysical systems including supernova explosions, black hole formation and pulsars. It is also possible that unexpected discoveries will be made through the research, in much the same way as has occurred in radio and x-ray astronomy.

In recent years there has been considerable progress towards the detection of these waves. Indirect confirmation of their existence has come from observations of the orbital motion of the binary pulsar PSR 1913+16, for which work Hulse and Taylor were awarded the 1993 Physics Nobel Prize. This evidence and the recognition of its importance gave a significant boost to the efforts of physicists worldwide in the gravitational wave field. The group in Glasgow has been involved in both experimental development and data analysis for around 35 years.


* Interferometry - is the technique of superposing two or more waves to detect differences between them.

** GEO 600 is a gravitational wave detector located in Hannover, Germany.

*** The US Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) operates two gravitational wave observatories in Livingston, Louisiana and at the LIGO Hanford Observatory, on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Washington.

First published: 1 October 2007

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