Research Lab for IIT Madras Set to Join LIGO-India Project

Published: 22nd February 2016 07:16 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd February 2016 07:16 AM   |  A+A-

CHENNAI: As a part of the LIGO-India project announced recently, a research lab is scheduled to be setup at the new IIT Madras Research Campus at Vandalur.

A research team comprising of senior IIT-M professors and research students would construct a third-generation gravitational wave detector for the larger optical experiment setup, which is  expected to begin operations by 2023.

The Laser Interferometer Gravitation-wave Observatory in India (LIGO-India project) cleared by the Union Cabinet on February 17 is being overseen by the IndiGO (Indian Initiative in Gravitational-wave Observations) consortium of which IIT-M is a member.

The LIGO, is primarily an optical experiment involving a Michelson-Morley interferometer and IIT-M would be supporting the photonics side of the research on interferometer (an instrument used to measure length of displacements), said Anil Prabhakar, an IIT-M Professor associated with this research.

Prabhakar added that while the United States has sent one of its three second generation wave detectors to India, we are planning to construct a prototype of a third generation detector for the larger research project to be constructed at either of the three proposed sites – Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

“The objective behind setting up a separate research lab at Vandalur would be to train people on the prototype of the detector involving state-of-the-art world-class technologies and start working on the actual detector with better sensitivity and science,” he told Express.

IIT researchers suggested that with greater sensitivity, greater are the chances of detecting gravitational waves, across larger parts of the universe, that remain unseen.

“The initial idea is to start the operation by the end of 2016,” said Professor  Anil, adding that this expensive setup measuring few tens of metres would be completely underground.

With high power lasers, extremely polished, smooth mirrors with roughness of less than 10 nanometres and instrumentation & signal processing system to analyse collected data, the team is looking at constant technology upgradation.

IIT researchers also said that since the setup involves a 10 metre stainless steel vacuum pipe, experts from various disciplines including tunneling, sensor, seismic technologists would be required to operate and monitor the most complicated, complex research of our times.  

The IIT-M research team comprising five faculties and 20 research students would coordinate the central LIGO-India team so that road maps lie on line with them in triangulating the source of GW from different parts of the universe.

“It would be a great opportunity for us to get forward and work on a world-class research,” said Professor Anil, adding that it would take another 20-30 years to complete this research and LIGO-India scientists expect to begin operations by 2022.


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