CERN collaborates on prototype vacuum tube Einstein Telescope

7 July 2023

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

With the future underground gravity wave detector Einstein Telescope, European researchers want 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 must become ten times more sensitive than its predecessors and even be able to “listen” back to the early days of the universe, when no light could penetrate the dense primordial matter.

To fulfill its scientific ambitions, the Einstein Telescope will demand the utmost in technology, such as cryogenically cooled vacuum tubes ten kilometers long 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 be available to the gravitational wave community.

Over the next few years, CERN will work with specialized companies and experts to develop and test a prototype vacuum tube for the Einstein Telescope. It should be ready by 2025. The project will also provide a report with technical requirements for the vacuum tubes. That “Technical Design Report” serves as a guide for companies that want to participate in the construction of the Einstein Telescope.

In addition to scientists from the Dutch research institute Nikhef, the Italian INFN and the Spanish IFAE, researchers from Belgium, France and Germany are also participating in the project.

Design drawings for a tube segment of the Einstein Telescope with a vacuum pump.

Work on the protoype vacuum tubes is getting off to a flying start thanks to a preliminary study the researchers began as early as September 2022. This yielded, among other things, design drawings, material research and knowledge about 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.