• Thu. Nov 30th, 2023

    Critical Thought

    Critical thoughts on quantum technologies

    New Advances in Quantum Technology Enhance LIGO’s Gravitational Wave Detection

    BySam Figg

    Nov 19, 2023
    New Advances in Quantum Technology Enhance LIGO’s Gravitational Wave Detection

    In a groundbreaking development, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) has made significant progress in surpassing the limits imposed by quantum physics. LIGO, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and operated by Caltech and MIT, has been at the forefront of detecting gravitational waves since its historic discovery in 2015. These waves, which are ripples in the fabric of space and time, have provided valuable insights into the universe’s most cataclysmic events.

    However, LIGO’s measurements have always been hindered by the laws of quantum physics. At minuscule, subatomic scales, the quantum noise present in empty space interferes with LIGO’s precision, limiting its sensitivity. In a recent article published in the journal Physical Review X, researchers at LIGO have introduced a revolutionary quantum technology called “frequency-dependent squeezing.” This cutting-edge technique allows LIGO to overcome the quantum limit and expand its range of gravitational wave frequencies that can be detected.

    The implementation of frequency-dependent squeezing has had a profound impact on LIGO’s capabilities. The detectors can now probe a larger volume of the universe, leading to an expected increase of approximately 60% in the detection of merger events. This breakthrough greatly enhances LIGO’s ability to study and understand the exotic phenomena that shape our universe.

    The development of this quantum technology required collaboration among numerous experts from MIT, Caltech, and the LIGO observatories in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana. Led by Lisa Barsotti, a senior research scientist at MIT, this grand effort involved scientists and engineers from various disciplines, including facilities, engineering, optics, and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. Despite the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic, their dedication and determination have been instrumental in achieving this significant milestone.

    By successfully surpassing the quantum limit, LIGO opens up new doors to the field of astronomy. Lee McCuller, assistant professor of physics at Caltech and one of the leaders of the study, highlights the transformative potential of this breakthrough. The sensitivity of LIGO’s laser-based observations now reaches a level where the device is affected by the quantum realm itself. This has broader implications for the development of quantum technologies like quantum computers and other microelectronics, as well as for fundamental physics experiments.


    What is LIGO?

    LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, is a groundbreaking scientific experiment that detects gravitational waves generated by celestial events such as black hole mergers and neutron star collisions. It utilizes laser interferometry to measure the stretching and squeezing of space-time caused by these cosmic phenomena.

    What is quantum squeezing?

    Quantum squeezing is a quantum technology that reduces the effects of quantum noise in measurements. It involves shifting the noise from one place to another, allowing for more precise measurements. In the context of LIGO, quantum squeezing enables the observatory to overcome the limitations imposed by quantum physics and enhance its sensitivity to gravitational wave detection.

    National Science Foundation (NSF)