China Proposes Gravitational Wave Research Projects


After a century, scientists found direct evidence of gravitational waves from a collision of two black holes through the Large Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO). This groundbreaking discovery encouraged Chinese scientists to investigate gravitational waves.

The waves, described by scientists as a ripple in the invisible fabric of the universe, were proposed by Albert Einstein in 1916. The confirmation of the theory could transform how humans look at the world and outer space.

Chinese physicists said that undertaking investigative projects in gravitational wave research would give China the opportunity to take the lead in the field.

"If we launch our own satellites, we will have a chance to be a world leader in gravitational wave research in the future," says physicist Hu Wenrui, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

The CAS proposed a space-based gravitational wave detector project called "Taiji." This program aims to give scientists a wider spectrum and more scientific data on gravitational waves produced by binary black holes.

Under the Taiji program, China would be taking a 20 percent share of the European Space Agency's eLISA initiative or launch its own satellites into orbit by 2033.

In July 2015, Sun Yat-sen University proposed its own project, "Tianqin," to launch three satellites into space to search for gravitational waves and investigate other cosmic mysteries.

The Institute of High Energy Physics plans to implement a land-based project in Tibet. The project, called "Ali," entails detecting primordial gravitational waves, or the first tremors of the Big Bang.

"Ali will be the first project detecting primordial gravitational waves in the sky above the Northern Hemisphere," says Su Meng, a Chinese researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Physics. "If it succeeds, it will be the next milestone in cosmology as well as high energy physics."

Though promising, all three projects are still awaiting approval and funding from the government.

A Call For Improved Scientific Support

Wang Yifang, head of the CAS high-energy physics institute, is calling for improved scientific support. He says that though Chinese scientists contributed to the discovery of gravitational waves, the lack of funding and support hindered projects.

The lack of support from the government and strict regulations on funding resulted in scientists giving up on international research projects, including the one with LIGO.

"For example, under the current conditions, no authority is responsible for granting funding for research projects with budgets between 40 million yuan ($6.13 million) to 300 million yuan ($46 million)," Wang says. More than 90 percent of funding for research is given to prioritized domestic projects.

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