The view back in time—way back to the origins of the universe—just got clearer. Much clearer.
A team of U.S. cosmologists using the BICEP2 telescope at the South Pole announced this week that they have discovered the first direct evidence of the rapid inflation of the universe at the dawn of time, thanks in part to technology developed and built by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
NIST chip identical to the 16 chips integrated into the BICEP2 telescope camera at the South Pole. Each custom superconducting circuit chip amplifies the electrical signals generated by 32 microwave detectors and assembles them into a sequential time stream.
The BICEP2 camera relies, in part, on the extraordinary signal amplification made possible by NIST's superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDs).
The team of cosmologists from Harvard University, the University of Minnesota, the California Institute of Technology/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and Stanford University/SLAC used BICEP2 to observe telltale patterns in the cosmic microwave background—the afterglow of the Big Bang almost 14 billion years ago—that support the leading theory about the origins of the universe.
The patterns, so-called "B-mode polarization," are the signature of gravitational waves, or ripples in space-time. These waves are direct evidence that the currently observable universe expanded rapidly from a subatomic volume in the first tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang. The project was funded by the National Science Foundation.
Researchers at NIST's campus in Boulder, Colo., made the custom superconducting circuits, or chips, that amplify electrical signals generated by microwave detectors measuring primordial particles of light. JPL made the detectors. The NIST chips, which along with the detectors are chilled to cryogenic temperatures, also assemble the signals into a sequential time stream that can be read by conventional room-temperature electronics.
"This is an exciting and important new result, and we are pleased that technology developed at NIST played a role," said physicist Gene Hilton, who was responsible for production of the NIST chips.
The 16 NIST chips contain a total of more than 2,000 SQUIDs, which measure the magnetic fields created in coils that carry and amplify the very small currents generated by the detectors. NIST researchers invented a method for wiring hundreds of SQUID signal amplifiers together to make large arrays of superconducting detectors practical—part of the cutting-edge technology that helps make BICEP2 especially powerful.
Physicists just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the SQUID, which has broad applications from medicine to mining and materials analysis—and now more than ever, cosmology.
For more on the BICEP2 discovery, see the Harvard announcement, "First Direct Evidence of Cosmic Inflation," at http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2014-05.
Laura Ost | EurekAlert!
New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers
21.04.2017 | California Institute of Technology
Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy
21.04.2017 | Stockholm University
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...
Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.
A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy