A Programme of Technology, Astrophysics and Cosmology in Cardiff 2012-14

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: School of Physics and Astronomy


We propose a programme of technology development for Astrophysics and Cosmology, along with implementation of technology developed in Cardiff for world-leading projects to investigate star and planet formation in our own and other galaxies, how galaxies form and evolve, and how the Universe we see around us today originated in the big bang. We will continue to develop the world's most sensitive detectors for very long infrared wavelengths, along with associated optical components utilising 'metamaterials' the class of materials designed and manufactured by human beings to have the properties best suited to their task, rather than relying on naturally occurring minerals and plastics. Both of these areas of technology development have potential wide applications outside of Astronomy, in areas such as security scanners and bio-medical imaging for example. The technologies used for imaging can also be extended to undertake spectroscopy, and we propose a programme to develop the capability to obtain a spectrum of every point in a large area image of the sky, which is essential for understanding how far away the objects found in deep surveys are, but also what the conditions in the gas that make up these objects are. We also propose to develop the technique of interferometry, where two separate telescopes are combined to create high angular resolution, for far-infrared wavelengths and to participate in a US-led balloon interferometer experiment. Finally we propose to participate in the Ebex balloon experiment to measure the so-called B-mode polarization signal in the cosmic microwave background, which if found will show us how inflation, the rapid expansion at the very beginning of the Universe, occurred.

Planned Impact

The programme proposed here will have extensive impact outside of astronomy.
Firstly in other academic subject areas such as Earth-observing where the technology is used to look downwards or sideways through the atmosphere rather than upwards, but also in bio-medical imaging, where the Far-infrared wavelength range has many spectral features, and is currently being used in collaboration with the School of Optometry in Cardiff to assess corneal damage.
Secondly we also plan to exploit the technology commercially, through the spinout company QMCI (www.terahertz.co.uk) which operates from within the School, with broad applications from fast plasma diagnostic systems in use in Fusion experiments, through laboratory spectroscopy across a wide range of chemistry and materials applications, through to security imaging.
We also plan a very strong Outreach programme, following on from the skills developed during the very successful Herschel/Planck outreach programme, with web-based and standard media information releases, but also tied in with Open days, school visits, and going out into schools and colleges to give presentations and host workshops. This work is closely aligned also with the in-house science communication company Science Made Simple. The outreach programme will be increasingly coordinated with the Astronomy group as we move toward consolidation over the next year.


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Amvrosiadis A. (2019) Herschel-ATLAS : the spatial clustering of low- and high-redshift submillimetre galaxies in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Amvrosiadis A. (2018) ALMA observations of lensed Herschel sources: testing the dark matter halo paradigm in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Arnold K. (2012) The bolometric focal plane array of the POLARBEAR CMB experiment in Millimeter, Submillimeter, and Far-Infrared Detectors and Instrumentation for Astronomy VI

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Bakx Tom J. L. C. (2018) The Herschel Bright Sources (HerBS): sample definition and SCUBA-2 observations in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Bleem L. (2012) An Overview of the SPTpol Experiment in Journal of Low Temperature Physics

Description Optical components developed for THz radiation, metamaterials with properties unavailable in natural materials.

New detectors with migher efficiency and ease of fabrication.
Exploitation Route The technology is already and will be used in future both in astronomy for ground-based and satellite osbervatories, but also in other areas such as laboratory spectroscopy, fusion plasma diagnostics and passive imaging, particualrly in security-related areas, such as aiport security and border control.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Energy,Security and Diplomacy

Description Technology developed on this grant has been used commercially through the spin-out company QMCI co-located within the School of Physics and Astronomy. Technology developed on this grant has also been used in outreach activity demonstratring the astronomy applications, in particular through the Herschel Outreach Programme. A major new initiative based on resesaerch fuinded on this and previous awards is the establishment of the new spin out company Sequestim which has received Border force funbding to develop real-time monitoring of passengers at airports and hidden in vehicles at ports. Thisw has received extensive publicity including a 5 minute slot ofn the ITN 10 pm news.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Education
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

Description Astronomy Grants
Amount £2,212,225 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/K000926/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2013 
End 04/2016
Company Name QMC Instruments Ltd 
Description QMC Instruments Ltd develops instrumentation for the detection and processing of electromagnetic radiation at wavelengths ranging from microwaves to the near infrared. Products include a long-established range of cryogenic detectors and associated components and instruments.   The development of this technology comes from the activity of the Cardiff University Astronomy Instrumentation Group, funded through successive STFC consolidated/rolling grants. 
Impact QMCI products are used in diverse applications such as atmospheric remote sensing, astronomy, semiconductor materials characterisation, hot plasma fusion diagnostics and electron spin resonance (ESR) spectroscopy. This has societal as well as economic benefit to the UK.
Website http://www.terahertz.co.uk/qmc-instruments-ltd