Home stretch for the Design Study of E.T. Print E-mail

ImageWhile current gravitational detectors are moving to their advanced version for reaching a higher sensitivity, the community is designing the Einstein Telescope, the detector of the future that will open the window to precision gravitational wave astronomy.


Einstein Telescope for gravitational waves
Artistic view of the Einstein Telescope (Credit: ASPERA).

Hunting for “extreme objects” in the Universe

The first target of the ET team has been to further elaborate the ET scientific targets; ET will have a sensitivity a factor 10 better than an advanced detector, with particular focus to the low (3-10Hz) frequency range; this will open a new avenue for understanding the physical phenomena of “extreme objects” in the Universe.

The design study team has detailed the scientific scope of ET in a vision document . For instance, ET will help to observe compact binary coalescences, allowing for an accurate measurement of the masses of neutron stars and black holes; it will then be possible to infer the maximum mass of a neutron star, a long-standing open problem in theoretical physics. By observing binary neutron stars in coincidence with short hard gamma ray bursts, ET will also help in measuring cosmological parameters as such cosmic bodies are ideal standard candles. In addition, ET should allow for testing general relativity and constrain alternative theories of gravity.

To achieve the sensitivity required by these science targets, the ET observatory must implement new technologies and new solutions in many fields: optics and opto-electronics (new high power laser, crystalline material optics, low dissipation coatings or coating-less optics), cryogenics (low vibration cryocoolers, cryogenic test masses), mechanics (seismic filters), gravity gradient noise subtraction through seismic sensor network. An intense and coordinated R&D programme will be necessary in the next years to master all the technologies required by ET.

But the main characteristic of the ET project is to consider it as a long-lasting European Research infrastructure, capable to host a family of evolving GW detectors. For this reason the design study focused on the site and infrastructure requirements of the ET observatory. ET will be a large underground installation located at least 100 metres below ground and having a triangular shape, each arm being about 10 km long.

The ET infrastructure will allow to implement up to three different detectors, each of them realized by one or two interferometers, tuned at different frequency ranges, in a so-called “xylophone” configuration.

The draft version of the ET conceptual design study document has been released by the ET collaboration in October 2010 at the third annual meeting in Budapest . The final version including the ET cost evaluation will be completed by July 2011. The conceptual design study marks a key milestone towards the realization of a new gravitational wave observatory in Europe.

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