Laser Interferometry and Gravitational Wave Astronomy
This department's research focus is on the development of gravitational-wave detectors on Earth as well as in space. This comprises also a full range of supporting laboratory experiments in quantum optics and laser physics.
After decades of development, gravitational-wave research has finally reached its goal: Today's observatories have achieved the sensitivity required for direct detection of gravitational waves. Fifty signals observed as of now and completely new insights into our universe are witnesses to this success. Scientists of the “Laser Interferometry and Gravitational Wave Astronomy” department are world leaders in this area.
Interferometry on Earth
Together with British colleagues, they operate the GEO600 gravitational-wave detector and develop new state-of-the-art technology. Many of the methods developed at AEI – such as the high-power laser systems of the detectors – are used in all major gravitational-wave observatories in the world. In this international collaboration, the institutes are making key contributions to the technology of future detectors. The AEI is also significantly involved in the development of the “Einstein telescope”, the European third-generation gravitational-wave detector.
Interferometry in Space
The most spectacular project for gravitational-wave detection is “Laser Interferometer Space Antenna” (LISA) - a space observatory led by the European Space Agency ESA, which is scheduled for launch in 2034. The institute is the world's leading research institution in LISA development. LISA will span laser arms millions of kilometers long between three satellites. This will make it sensitive enough to hear gravitational waves from the entire universe. LISA Pathfinder – an ESA test mission for LISA – involved AEI researchers and demonstrated the viability of key LISA technologies. The AEI contributes a laser interferometer to the gravimetry mission GRACE Follow-On, making available gravitational-wave technology from basic research for climate research today.