What opportunities does the Einstein Telescope offer to European researchers and companies? Representatives of the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research paid a working visit to Liège and Maastricht to be informed.
The Einstein Telescope is a globally unique scientific project that can measure gravitational waves deep below the ground with unprecedented precision. This will bring new insights into the universe and life on Earth, and it will also be of great importance for the economy, for innovations in society and for the jobs of scientists and professional skilled workers.
No wonder Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands hope to realise this underground research facility in their border area, the Euregio Meuse-Rhine. Besides the Euregio Meuse-Rhine, the Italian island of Sardinia is also in view as a possible location for the Einstein Telescope. The decision on the location of the observatory will not be made until 2026 by all countries participating in the project.
To bring the Einstein Telescope to the Euregio Meuse-Rhine, many preparations have already been started. There is a lot of interest in this. On 1 and 2 February, three experts from the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research (MESR) were invited to Liège and Maastricht to discuss the Einstein telescope project and the Euregio Meuse-Rhine’s candidacy. Questions that were discussed were: how is the project organised, how does decision-making work and how can researchers participate? And what opportunities are there for companies to contribute with high-quality technology?
The construction of the telescope requires a lot of high-quality technology, which often does not yet exist. Lasers, mirrors and extreme cold technology, for example. Also, the conditions must be perfect, so as not to disturb the measurements. For example, the tunnel must be dug perfectly, and the pressure and humidity in those tunnels must be just right. A big technical challenge.
“We had a lot of discussions with the many players involved in this complex project supported by the Euregio Meuse-Rhine, and were impressed by their dynamism and enthusiasm,” emphasised Frédéric Ravel, director of the energy, sustainable development, chemistry and processes sector at the MESR.
Jean-Luc Biarrotte, scientific adviser for research infrastructures, was delighted to note that “the strong European impetus for gravitational waves, already firmly established by EGO-Virgo, is continuing unabated and holds great promise for the coming decades”.
“The visit to the laboratories behind pioneering projects such as ETpathfinder and E-TEST was very interesting, and enabled us to take stock of concrete scientific and technological advances,” added Susanna Gota-Goldmann, Deputy Head of the Major Research Infrastructures Department.
During their visit, the French delegation looked at the international testing facility ETpathfinder in Maastricht and the research centre for aerospace at the University of Liège and the company Amos, where technology for the Einstein Telescope is being developed. They also spoke with representatives of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which is partner in the EMR candidate alongside Belgium and The Netherlands. Regional investment companies finally talked about the growing network of companies developing technology for the research facility.
“We notice that the Einstein Telescope and its high-quality technology appeal to the imagination, there is a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of knowledge in this region,” says Martijn Poel, MT member at the Research and Science Policy Directorate of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. “During this visit, it was about the joint approach of all research institutes, companies and governments in the region towards a candidacy. Other countries are very welcome to work with us on this international project”.