Space technology is also applied on our planet

Find out how space technology is used in various sectors such as health and security industries for the benefit of mankind on our planet.

Space technology is also applied on our planet
Research and development of space technology also applied to Earth. Photo by NASA / Unsplash

The instruments and systems developed for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), in addition to searching for gravitational waves, are used in the health and security industries on Earth, said Sheila Rowan, from the University of Glasgow.

The researcher and collaborator of the project, who was invited by Fundación UNAM to give a talk on "Gravitational waves: listening to the Universe", explained that the educational institution to which she belongs has developed high precision measurement systems, high-security crystals, sensors that allow the differentiation of cells for health, retinal scans, environmental gravity meters in gas and oil systems, among other innovations.

"These are just some of the developments at my university, which is Glasgow, which has applications much closer to home, so some of the technological developments for this observatory can help people's lives here and now."

As an example, she gave the system that can detect, with great precision, small reddenings in the retina of the eye to look for diseases, something that is being worked on with a company in the United Kingdom. They are working together with stem cell biologists who use the vibrations to preferentially convert these cells to help people with bone implants and osteoporosis.

Another project involves the use of MEMS Gravity environmental sensors to monitor safety systems for the oil and gas industry, said the UK researcher to the president of Fundación UNAM, Dionisio Meade García de León; UNAM researcher emeritus, Jaime Urrutia Fucugauchi; and the director of the UNAM-UK Center for Mexican Studies, Ana Elena González.

Precise information

During her participation, the expert in Gravitational Waves transmitted the audios in which the ripples generated by gravity in the Universe, which resemble the sound of a drop of water falling, can be heard. The audio corresponds to the merger of two black holes, he said, which took place 1.3 billion light-years away from Earth, and with it, the experts who are part of the LIGO project expand the estimates they had on the frequency of this type of astronomical process.

This "sound signature", the researcher pointed out, is unique and indicates, like no other parameter, that this integration took place in a way that, until now, had not been achieved. "The (neutron) stars have started to appear, the black holes eventually do, and they start to give us clues as to whether they formed earlier and we can start to build a history of the evolution of stars and black hole systems. The more sensitive the instruments are, the more we will be able to go back in time," Rowan said.

The scientific advisor to the Scottish government explained that this type of wave is invisible, although incredibly fast since they travel at the speed of light in space, that is, approximately 300,000 kilometers per second. More than a century ago Albert Einstein predicted that when two planets or stars orbit each other they could cause ripples in space, which would spread out like a drop of water in a pond when a stone is thrown, but contract and stretch anybody in their path.

The events that generate gravitational waves such as the explosion of a supernova, the merger of two neutron stars orbiting each other, or of two black holes are too far away from Earth, and so when they reach us the waves are so small and weak that it is difficult to detect them. In 2015, the LIGO project detected them by using a system that has a laser light beam arranged perpendicularly, and the light bounces off mirrors located at the ends of the giant tubes, said the also director of the Institute for Gravitation Research.

Rowan said that the equipment is currently undergoing a new upgrade, which will be called "A+" so that soon there will be state-of-the-art sensors with which it is hoped to identify with greater precision the deformations in space caused mainly by the merger of black holes. Currently, we have made great progress in planning and creating more sensitive detectors than we have seen so far. Upgrades are being made and in a couple of years we will have more sensitive instruments, she concluded.