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Collaboration with CERN on prototype vacuum pipe for Einstein Telescope

Artist's concept of one of the Einstein Telescope's underground measurement stations. Copyright: Nikhef / Marco Kraan

The particle lab CERN is joining forces with European gravitational wave experts and companies to develop a prototype vacuum pipe for the Einstein Telescope. Thanks to its particle accelerators, CERN is a specialist in building large underground vacuum systems, a technique which is indispensable for the Einstein Telescope.

With the future underground gravitational wave detector Einstein Telescope, European researchers aim to build a new sense to study the universe. Gravitational waves occur when huge masses such as burnt-out stars crash into each other, and reveal events invisible to ordinary telescopes.

The Einstein Telescope is planned to become ten times more sensitive than its predecessors and will even be able to “listen” back to the early days of the universe, when no light could penetrate the dense matter that filled the Universe before the first stars.

CERN expertise

To fulfil its scientific ambitions, the Einstein Telescope will demand the utmost in engineering, such as the cryogenically cooled 10-kilometre-long vacuum pipes that will be located in underground tunnels. The renowned particle institute CERN is a global expert in that technique. With a new partnership, that knowledge will now become available to the gravitational wave community.

Construction drawings for an Einstein Telescope pipe segment with a vacuum pump.
Construction drawings for an Einstein Telescope pipe segment with a vacuum pump. Source: Cedric Garion

Over the next few years, CERN will work with specialised companies and experts to develop and test a prototype vacuum pipe for the Einstein Telescope. This should be ready by 2025. The project will also deliver a report with technical requirements for the vacuum pipes. That ‘Technical Design Rapport’ serves as a guide for companies that want to participate in the construction of the Einstein Telescope.

Besides scientists from the Dutch research institute Nikhef, the Italian INFN and the Spanish IFAE, researchers from Belgium, France and Germany are also taking part in the project.

Preliminary studies

Work on the protoype vacuum pipes is off to a flying start thanks to a preliminary study the researchers started as early as September 2022. This included design drawings, material research and knowledge of manufacturing techniques. By the end of 2025, the researchers and companies aim to deliver their technical requirements and a working prototype of the vacuum system.

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