Europe means to make prestigious project a priority (and the tri-border area is a possible location for hosting)
The realisation of the Einstein Telescope, a prestigious project to better understand our universe, is a considerable step closer. Europe put the project on a shortlist of priority projects for implementation. The tri-border area Meuse-Rhine Euroregion is one of the two possible locations for the telescope.
A century ago, Einstein launched his theory of gravitational waves. These waves are the key to unlocking many of the secrets of our universe. To detect them in optimal conditions, scientists wish to build the Einstein Telescope (ET).
‘Using this large-scale international research infrastructure, we want to study the universe for half a century using gravitational waves’, says Professor Nick Van Remortel of the Department of Physics at UAntwerp. ‘The laboratory will mostly be located underground, consisting of a network of 30 km of tunnels in the shape of an equilateral triangle. The technology used is ground-breaking and transdisciplinary.’
Universities working together
This high-tech instrument will become a driver for technology and industrial development in many crucial areas such as new materials, cryogenic temperatures, vacuum technology, optics and photonics, quantum technology, computer technology, and artificial intelligence. The project allows us to train a new generation of scientists and engineers in the field of gravitational waves, and more broadly in all related fields.
The interest in the project is enormous. The five Flemish universities are working hard to support the project, and dozens of academic institutions and research labs from more than ten European countries are also willing to assist with the project scientifically, politically and financially. Flanders, together with Wallonia, the Netherlands and Germany, plays a pioneering role in the ET project.
‘A strong commitment from the Flemish government will increase the chances of realising the ET project in the tri-border area of Belgium-Netherlands-Germany’, said Van Remortel. ‘Currently there are only two locations in the running: our Meuse-Rhine Euroregion and the Italian island of Sardinia.’
Europe is already convinced of the importance of the project: on 30 June, the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures announced that the Einstein Telescope will be included on the short list for priority projects for implementation within Europe.
High economic return
Van Remortel: ‘This is an important milestone for the project. We have been working in Flanders, and by extension in Belgium, for more than four years to put this project in the spotlight academically, technologically and politically. The realisation of the telescope could, in addition to its enormous international prestige, give a major boost to fundamental physics research in Flanders. And, of course, there is the economic aspect: ET would create 1,500 new jobs and each euro invested would bring a return of 3.6 euros to the local economy.’
The promoters will now draw up a bid book, which will include the main expenses of the project. The total cost of construction is estimated at 1.7 billion euros. At the same time, the geophysical characteristics of the two possible host areas will also be examined. The final decision on the installation of the Einstein Telescope will be made in 2024.