Limburg soil stable enough for Einstein Telescope
The possible construction of the Einstein Telescope in South Limburg is a step closer now that research has shown that the soil under the hills is stable enough for the ten-kilometre-long detectors of gravitational waves. Maastricht University, one of the participants in the project, is pleased with the results.
Measuring gravitational waves will give us a better understanding of the nature of gravity as well as more information about the origin of the universe. According to Albert Einstein, collisions of celestial bodies create distortions of space-time. As a result, heavy, energy-rich objects move through space at a higher speed, creating ‘ripples in space-time’. This produces a gravitational wave, traveling through the universe at the speed of light and very slowly losing its energy.
A colossal laser detector is needed to measure these waves. The structure, called Einstein Telescope, will consist of three tunnels, each ten kilometers in length and constructed a few hundred metres below ground. The soil must be extremely stable. Two locations are still in the race for the construction of the detector: Limburg and Sardinia. Soil research has now shown that the intended location in South Limburg is suitable for the sensitive telescope. The rocky ground in the relatively sparsely populated area is quiet and hard, guaranteeing sufficient damping of the vibrations.
Boost to regional economy and international science
Both the province and Maastricht University are happy with the results of the research. The arrival of the Einstein Telescope is expected to give a significant boost to the economy of the region, and the world of science is also looking forward to the start of the project. Since 2014, the National Institute for Subatomic Physics Nikhef has been working on gravitational waves, which were first detected a year later.
UM has recently joined the institute and appointed appointed Prof. dr. Stefan Hild early this year to work on the construction of the construction of the ‘ET Pathfinder’, a prototype of the Einstein Telescope. The construction of this "testing facility" may increase the chance of Limburg being selected. A decision is expected in a few years. The construction of the Einstein Telescope is not expected to start before 2025.
Attending the press release about the research findings, held at Nieuwspoort in The Hague, was a group of UM physics students and alumni who have studied the Einstein Telescope project.
UM alumnus Lizzy Rieth took the stage for an interview on fundamental physics at Maastricht Science Programme where she has joined lecturer Gideon Koekoek in his research on gravitational waves.
An impression of the Einstein Telescope, a giant deep-cooled underground laser detector, which in theory will be able to explore the universe as far back as the Big Bang.
Construction work on the ET Pathfinder, the testing facility for Einstein Telescope, will start at Maastricht University early next year.