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Research group | Fundamental Noise Sources

The squeezed light laser in its final position in the vicinity of the vacuum chambers of GEO 600. Photo: Roman Schnabel

Over the past 400 years, telescopes of many different kinds have paved the way for observational astronomy and furnished us with a vast knowledge about the structure and the history of the universe. In the future, a new class of telescope will detect so-called gravitational waves for the first time. According to Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, such waves originate for example from the explosion of stars, or two coalescing black holes. The first generation of gravitational wave detectors is already in operation. The likelihood of making an initial detection depends on whether a strong burst of gravitational waves reaches the earth. Future generations of gravitational wave detectors need to be a hundred times more sensitive in order to continuously detect signals.

In this project, some experimental key techniques necessary for such a sensitivity boost are being developed and tested. Gravitational wave detectors use laser light to detect tiny distance changes—even many thousand times smaller than the diameter of an atomic nucleus—and thus detect gravitational waves. Within the framework of this QUEST-project, the first squeezed-light laser suitable for operation in gravitational wave detectors was designed and assembled. The innovation of this laser is based on quantum entanglement and it should reduce the quantum noise of the GEO 600 detector. It is currently being incorporated into GEO 600, and a first entanglement enhancement is already expected in 2010.