A Programme of Astrophysics, Cosmology and Technology in Cardiff 2016-19

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


We propose a programme of Astrophysics, Cosmology and Technology development for Astrophysics and Cosmology, to investigate star and planet formation in our own and other galaxies, and how galaxies form and evolve. This programme will combine observational data from world-class ground and space-based observatories, as well as theoretical modelling and simulations of the processes that result in the Universe we observe around us. We will also 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 potentially have 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.

Planned Impact

The technology 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, for example. 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 across both the technology developments and the observational and theoretical astrophysics and cosmology 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.


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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