Emblem of the Birmingham GW Institute

We are a part of the Birmingham Astrophysics and Space Research Group where we have built sensors, actuators and control electronics for the LIGO suspensions within the Advanced LIGO UK Project. We currently develop new designs and technologies for future gravitational-wave detectors within the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. We also study macroscopic quantum optomechanics and search for axion dark matter within the Quantum Interferometry collaboration.


SQL cryostat
SQL sus model
SQL layout

QTFP Quantum optomechanics

Quantum optomechanics technology promises significant reduction of thermal noises and is considered by the GW community as the key element of the future GW antennas, such as Cosmic Explorer and Einstein Telescope. In this experiment, we explore macroscopic quantum mechanics phenomena, such as quantum back-action noise, with silicon mirrors.

In our group, we are building an experiment that will show the feasibility of preparing a macroscopic quantum-limited system within a regular laboratory environment. This will be achieved by suspending a cryogenically cooled, high-finesse optical cavity via a multi-stage suspension. We motivate the utility of our experiment in providing an increased understanding of the nature of quantum fluctuations in current and future gravitational wave detectors, as well as opening an avenue for research into aspects of macroscopic quantum mechanics and quantum gravity.

The research project is a part of the Quantum-enhanced Interferometry for New Physics programme that is funded by the UKRI Science and Technology Facilities Council and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council under the Quantum Technologies for Fundamental Physics initiative.


Figure 1: Installed cryostat

Figure 2: CAD model of the suspension system

Figure 3: Layout of the experiment

Selected publications:

Towards the Standard Quantum Limit in a Table-Top Interferometer

Quantum correlations of light mediated by gravity

A High-Finesse Suspended Interferometric Sensor for Macroscopic Quantum Mechanics with Femtometre Sensitivity


STFC 6D seismometer

Pushing this seismic wall in GW detectors to lower frequencies will have two critical effects: expansion of the astrophysical reach and reduction of the impact of environmental disturbances on the observatories. We propose to solve the problem of ground vibrations with a 6D seismometer which measures the bench motion in all 6 degrees of freedom with optical sensors.

In our group, we perform the full set of tasks related to the development of the 6D seismometer: simulations, CAD modelling, and experimental research.

The research project is a part of the Astrophysics at the University of Birmingham programme and Gravitational Wave Astronomy at the University of Birmingham, STFC Equipment Call 2018 that are funded by the UKRI Science and Technology Facilities Council.


Figure 1: Picture of the seismomenter installation

Figure 2: M-6D protopype

Figure 3: C-6D seismometer

Selected publications:

A 6D interferometric inertial isolation system

Active platform stabilisation with a 6D seismometer

Design and sensitivity of a 6-axis seismometer for gravitational wave observatories

CTN layout
CTN reference cavities

EPSRC Optical coatings

Optical coatings are formed by alternating layers of materials with different refractive indices and are utilised to reflect light from the mirror surfaces. Thermal motion of atoms inside optical coatings leads to the random phase modulation of light and noise in the readout channel of the gravitational-wave detectors, optical atomic clocks, and quantum optomechanical systems.

In collaboration with the UK National Quantum Hub in Sensors and Timing, we build an MIT-type experiment to measure properties of the key interferometric components: optical coatings, at 1550 nm. The key idea of the measurement is to resonate two beams in the same optical cavity and make all noises common to these beams, except for the thermal noises.

The research project "Coating thermal noise measurement with a multimode resonator" is funded by the UKRI Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council as the New Investigator initiative.


Figure 1: Laboratory

Figure 2: Optical layout of the experiment

Figure 3: Stability of reference cavities with current and future coatings

Selected publications:

Audio-band coating thermal noise measurement for Advanced LIGO with a multimode optical resonator.

Axion layout
Axion detection scheme

QTFP Axion interferometer

There are many theories that try to explain the nature of dark matter. Analyses of a range of observations, including the rotation velocities of galaxies, the dynamics of galaxy clusters, microlensing, and the large-scale structure of the universe led most of the scientific community to accept non-baryonic particles as the primary dark matter candidates.

The physical principle of axion-like-particle searches pursuits by our group is to explore a phase velocity difference between left- and right-handed circularly polarized light which propagates in the presence of axion-like-particle fields. We build a quantum-enhanced interferometer to measure the phase difference induced by axions with masses from 10-16 eV up to 10-8 eV.

The research project is a part of the Quantum-enhanced Interferometry for New Physics programme that is funded by the UKRI Science and Technology Facilities Council and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council under the Quantum Technologies for Fundamental Physics initiative.


Figure 1: Laboratory

Figure 2: Chamber installation

Figure 3: Expected sensitivity

Selected publications:

Quantum-enhanced interferometry for axion searches

First results of the Laser-Interferometric Detector for Axions (LIDA)

Photon counting for axion interferometry

DarkGEO: A Large-Scale Laser-Interferometric Axion Detector


Position sensors

Operation of GW detectors at low temperature offers potentially great benefits, as well as major challenges. The GW community is exploring the Voyager concept, which has silicon test masses operating at 123 K. We work on expanding of our existing programme in suspension sensing and actuation hardware into cryogenic operation.

Improvements in the LIGO low-frequency band call for new position sensors with a low self-noise. We explore an application of interferometric readout to the LIGO suspensions and seismometers. Compact interferometers have the potential to improve the self-noise of existing LIGO position sensors by two orders of magnitude.


Figure 1: Interferometric sensors

Figure 2: Interferometric sensors (zoomed)

Figure 3: BOSEM sensors and actuators

Selected publications:

Compact Michelson interferometers with subpicometer sensitivity

Nonlinearities in Long-Range Compact Michelson Interferometers

Amplifier: layout
Amplifier: interaction
Amplifier: sensitivity

EPSRC Quantum amplifiers

Quantum noise limits the sensitivity of modern precision measurements, such as observation of gravitational waves and dark matter searches. In order to advance precision measurements, we study quantum phase-insensitive amplifiers that have the potential to improve the performance of optical interferometers.

In our group, we build an active optical system that amplifies signal and noise asymmetrically and improves the signal-to-noise ratio compared to passive optical resonators. We embed a quantum filter with an active medium in the optical cavity to demonstrate the performance of the coupled cavity system with a particular gain.

The research project "Phase-insensitive amplifier for quantum measurements" is funded by the UKRI Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council as the New Horizons initiative.


Figure 1: Lock of the filter cavity

Figure 2: Photo of the experiment

Figure 3: Quantum noise suppression

Selected publications:

Converting the signal-recycling cavity into an unstable optomechanical filter to enhance the detection bandwidth of gravitational-wave detectors

Enhancing the sensitivity of interferometers with stable phase-insensitive quantum filters

Design of a tabletop interferometer with quantum amplification


STFC LIGO A+ upgrade

The enhanced capabilities afforded by A+ will be able to, among other science goals, illuminate the origins and evolution of stellar-mass black holes, allow precision tests of extreme gravity, enable detailed study of the equation of state of neutron stars, and permit new tests of cosmology, including fully independent constraints on the Hubble constant.

We build suspension sensors, actuators, phase cameras and electronics for the A+ detectors to help enhance their astrophysical reach to compact binary mergers by a factor of 1.8. The research project "The A+ upgrade:Expanding the Advanced LIGO Horizon" is funded by the UKRI Science and Technology Facilities Council.


Figure 1: LIGO Livingston detector. Credit: LIGO

Figure 2: HoQI interferometric sensors

Figure 3: Phase cameras

Selected publications:

A compact, large-range interferometer for precision measurement and inertial sensing

Sensors and actuators for the Advanced LIGO mirror suspensions


Future detectors

The discoveries made by the LIGO and Virgo gravitational-wave detectors have had a transformative impact and triggered a new era in astronomy. Taking full advantage of the GW window requires a new network of observatories that can survey the Universe on its largest scales and provide information of broad interest in astrophysics, cosmology, and nuclear physics.

In our group, we work on the design of the future gravitational-wave detectors which can be hosted in the current or future facilities. In particular, we proposed an optical layout for observing signals from neutron star oscillations above 1 kHz. We also studied the low-frequency performance of the LIGO detectors and proposed a strategy to observe signals from intermediate-mass black holes below 30 Hz.


Figure 1: LIGO vacuum equipment. Credit: LIGO MIT.

Figure 2: Cosmic Explorer. Credit: Cosmic Explorer.

Figure 3: Einstein Telescope. Credit: ASPERA.

Selected publications:

Exploring the sensitivity of gravitational wave detectors to neutron star physics

Prospects for Detecting Gravitational Waves at 5 Hz with Ground-Based Detectors

Towards the design of gravitational-wave detectors for probing neutron-star physics


John Bryant John Bryant
Research assistant
Millie Emilia Chick
PhD student
Inertial isolaiton
Alfie Alfie Creber
Year 4 student
Quantum optomechanics
Artemiy Artemiy Dmitriev
Research fellow
Quantum amplifiers
Dark matter
Alex Alex Gill
PhD student
Dark matter
Joscha Joscha Heinze
Research fellow
Dark matter
Coating noise
Lari Lari Koponen
Research Engineer
Denis Denis Martynov
Professor of Physics
Looks for his chair
Haixing Haixing Miao
Group affiliate
Tsinghua University
SamMoore Sam Moore
Year 4 student
Quantum optomechanics
Xingrui Xingrui Peng
PhD student
Future detectors
Coating noise
Leo Leonid Prokhorov
Research fellow
Seismic isolation
Cold atoms
George Jiri (George) Smetana
Reseach fellow
Quantum optomechanics
Position sensors
Alberto Alberto Vecchio
Prof, Head of Institute
Dreams of Sicily
Amit Amit Ubhi
Reseach fellow
Inertial isolation
Casimir forces
Tianliang Yan Tianliang Yan
Research fellow
Quantum optomechanics
Teng Teng Zhang
Assistant professor
Enjoys 3G phones

Join us

MSc positions:

Every year we offer two experimental projects for Birmingham Master students.

PhD positions: Application deadline was on Jan 15, 2024!

Faculty positions:

Assistant Professor in Experimental Physics. Apply now!

The School of Physics and Astronomy and Institute for Gravitational Wave Astronomy at the University of Birmingham invite applications for a faculty position in experimental physics at the Assistant Professor level. The Institute for Gravitational Wave Astronomy provides a vibrant and diverse research environment with expertise across many areas of physics and astronomy, from theoretical to experimental gravitational-wave research with applications to present and future observatories: detectors R&D, quantum optomechanics and amplifiers, seismometers and position sensors, axion interferometry, gravitational-wave observations, data analysis, transient astronomy, theoretical astrophysics, gravitational-wave source modelling including numerical relativity.

Send your questions about jobs to Denis Martynov and Alberto Vecchio


We are happy to share our expertise in precision measurements and electronics. In collaboration with the Birmingham Enterprise, we have already distrubuted our products to China and Europe. Below is the list of available products. For more information, contact Denis Martynov.

Coil Driver

Sensors and actuators

In our recently-refurbished mechanical workshop with CEC machines, we manufacture, assemble, and test technologies for linear sensing, including cryogenically compatible shadow sensors with sum-nm resolution and linear range of 1 mm, coil-magnet actuators, and supporting electronics. The technology has been utilised in the LIGO detectors for 10 years.


Data acquisition electronics

We assemble and test electronics for the LIGO-type data acquisition system known as CDS. The software is available for free from the LIGO repositories. We distribute fully assembled and tested hardware, including anti-aliasing, anti-imaging filters, and interface boxes and wiring between these filters and analog-to-digital and ditital-to-analog converters.