Europe is investigating the Einstein Telescope to enhance its research infrastructure. Around 2030 this facility should be operational to image the universe with gravitational waves with a ten-fold improved sensitivity compared to current interferometers. To reach this sensitivity one requires seismic sensor networks to subtract noise caused by direct gravitational coupling of mass density fluctuations to suspended components of the interferometer. For example, miniscule density fluctuations in the earth’s crust will couple directly to the suspended mirrors of the interferometer causing displacement errors that cannot be filtered out by the suspension systems.
To reduce this limiting noise source at low frequencies (1-100 Hz), Nikhef has started the development of a novel seismic sensor: an ultra-sensitive miniaturised accelerometer made in micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) technology in combination with extremely low-noise low-power integrated readout electronics. The MEMS presented in this proposal has already proven world record sensitivity that is more than an order of magnitude better than the current state-of-art and is targeted to have significantly lower power and cost. This was reached in a laboratory setup where the MEMS sensor is readout by bulky discrete electronics.
Our main objective is to develop the world’s most sensitive and compact accelerometer in the low frequency regime that can be produced in large quantities. In this proposal Nikhef, the Dutch National Institute for Subatomic Physics, and its spin-off company Innoseis will start integrating the MEMS accelerometer with CMOS circuitry to develop a robust and practical seismic sensor. With this prototype with integrated electronics we expect to attract research, industrial, and production partners for ATTRACT.
This proposal introduces a next generation MEMS sensor that utilises patented technology inspired by the search for gravitational waves. Immediately we realised that the possible applications of our sensor systems are manifold. This technology offers solutions to the three main challenges currently facing MEMS accelerometer development: sensitivity, power consumption and cost. It will be able to address the needs of the geothermal energy and navigation markets as well as opening up opportunities in completely new markets where smaller, lighter and cost-effective devices can provide smart sensing in life-saving situations.