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Gravitational Waves Can Be Found Closer to Home

While gravitational waves were detected a billion light years away earlier this year, they may soon be identified throughout “the observable universe”.

Prof David Blair of the Australian International Gravitational Research Centre at The University of Western Australia said that “cat-flap” pendulums less than 1 mm in size could be retrofitted to existing gravitational wave detectors, enabling physicists to record hundreds of gravity wave events every day.

“Currently the detectors can only detect huge tsunami-like waves, but with the new technology we would be able to extend that range about seven times,” Blair said. “One of our PhD students, Jiayi Qin, has tested the concept as part of her thesis with very good results, and we will now look to test the technology further.”

Blair is part of an international team that has spent the past 7 years putting together detector equipment that uses powerful lasers to measure vibrations of mirrors suspended 4 km apart at the ends of huge vacuum pipes.

The gravitational waves announced earlier this year were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed.

However, the detectors have industrial applications too. “Gravitational wave technology is already being applied to mineral exploration, time standards, quantum computing, precision sensors, ultra-sensitive radars and pollution monitors,” Blair explained.