Scientists Just Got One Step Closer To Exploring Extra Dimensions
An experiment conducted by scientists in Austria has resulted in a breakthrough that could lead to research into the possibility of extra dimensions.
The breakthrough comes as the team managed to demonstrate gravitational coupling between two gold spheres that each measured just one millimetre across – together they were roughly the size of a grain of sand.
The experiment, published in the journal Nature, involved ‘the smallest single object whose gravitational field has been measured.’
Scientists are eager to measure gravitational attractions on ever-smaller scales, but the signal of a gravitational field can be overwhelmed by disruptions of seismic, electromagnetic and other gravitational sources.
In an effort to get around this issue, the researchers from the University of Vienna’s Aspelmeyer Group found ways to filter out external interference with the gravitational coupling between a grounded source mass and a moving test mass, which each weighed about 90 milligrams.
As well as taking their measurements ‘during the seismically quiet Christmas season,’ the team muted the electromagnetic disruption by connecting the source mass to a vacuum chamber and reducing the charge of the test mass using ionized nitrogen. They also placed a shield of gold-plated aluminium between the masses to further suppress electrostatic noise.
With the precautions in place, the team moved the test mass closer to the source mass and were able to isolate the gravitational field between the gold spheres, which was equal to an extremely tiny fraction of a Newton.
Discussing the successful experiment with Vice, study co-authors Hans Hepach and Jeremias Pfaff said the team was ‘very excited’ and ‘relieved at the same time.’
We were very confident that we could build a sensor for these small forces, but it remains technologically challenging to actually do it.
It is fascinating that it is possible to isolate gravity, especially if we consider that our experiment was sensitive enough to detect the 1st finisher of the Vienna City Marathon crossing the finishing line about two kilometers away.
While the breakthrough is noteworthy in its own right, it also has big implications for future research into small-scale gravitational fields, with scientists hoping to study gravity at quantum scales.
Hepach and Pfaff said: ‘All experiments involved in detection and measurement of gravitational coupling suffer from the same problem, namely isolating the object under investigation from all other influences. Therefore advances in measurement techniques, quantum measurements and microfabrication will profit all experiments aimed at tackling these open questions.’
The team’s new experimental technique could, in time, lead to research and new insights into string theory, which suggests the universe contains extra dimensions. It could also provide information about dark energy, an unknown energy source that appears to be accelerating the expansion of the universe.
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Most Read StoriesMost Read