How superconducting sheets could reflect gravitational waves


Gravitational waves are the elusive distortions in spacetime created by the universe’s most violent events–collisions between black holes, stars exploding and even the big bang itself.

Nobody has bagged a confirmed sighting of these waves but that may change thanks to an intriguing idea from Raymond Chiao and pals at the University of California, Merced. They propose the existence of a new kind of mirror that reflects gravitational waves and may even convert them into electromagnetic waves.

First some background. Theoretical physicists have long noticed that in certain circumstances, Einstein’s equations of general relativity, which predict the existence of gravitatonal waves, bear a remarkable similarity to Maxwell’s equations that describe the behaviour of electromagnetic radiation. That’s an important clue for understanding how gravitational waves  behave, says Chiao.

He points to the specific case in which a thin superconducting film reflects em waves. If that works for em waves, then the mathematics indicates that it must also work for gravitational waves.

Here’s the thinking. A gravitational wave stretches and squeezes space as it moves through the universe. Any object in its way will appear to be squashed  and stretched in the same way, the particles within this object will move with the distorted space in a specific trajectory (called geodesic motion).

The new idea comes from considering what happens to a superconducting sheet when a gravitational wave passes by. The Cooper pairs within the sheet are quantum objects governed by the uncertainty principle and so cannot have specific trajectory: they are entirely delocalised. On the other hand, the ions that make up the crystal structure of the superconductor are not delocalised and so can move along a geodesic trajectory when a gravitational wave passes.

This is the basis on which a gravitational wave can interact with a superconducting sheet. “Quantum delocalization causes the Cooper pairs of a superconductor to undergo non-geodesic motion relative to the geodesic motion of its ionic lattice,” says Chiao and buddies.

They speculate that this difference in motion causes the sheet to absorb energy from the  gravitational wave and then re-radiate it as gravitational wave travelling in the opposite direction–in other words specular reflection.

That’s an extraordinary claim which needs some further investigation, not least because there’s a fair amount of disagreement over the GR-Maxwell link in the first place.

Nevertheless, Chiao and co go even further by ending their paper with this:

This implies that two charged, levitated superconducing spheres in static mechanical equilibrium, such that their Coulombic repulsion balances their Newtonian attraction, should be an efficient transducer for converting EM waves into GR waves and vice versa. A Hertz-like experiment in which a transmitter and receiver of GR microwaves are constructed using two such transducers should therefore be practical to perform.

So a pair of levitating, superconducting spheres would act as an antenna for gravitational waves and convert them into electromagnetic waves.

Why wait for LIGO? What’s the betting that superconducting spheres can make the detection first?

Ref: Do Mirrors for Gravitational Waves Exist?

11 Responses to “How superconducting sheets could reflect gravitational waves”

  1. ZEPHIR says:

    Well, this is a bright and fundamental idea, fully consistent with Aether theory. Now we can rethink Le-Sage theory of gravity and all these “controversial” Podkletnov “antigravity” experiments immediatelly.

  2. Jasper says:

    I wonder if this in any way related to the MiniGrail project at Leiden in the Netherlands:

  3. Zephir says:

    The simmilarity is only accidental here, I hope…. MiniGrail project has a simmilar construction and ultralow temperature cooling from two reasons: usage of SQUID transducers and suppression of thermal noise, not because of preffered reflection of gravitational waves by superconductors. The material of detector, i.e. the alloy CuAl6% has been chosen because of its high quality factor (Q ∼ 107 at low temperature), high sound velocity (VS ≃ 4100m/s) and a sufficient thermal conductivity, which allows to cool a 1.3 ton antenna to a temperature below 100mK in suficiently short time.

  4. Zephir says:

    From AWT follows, the part of light waves passing through very dense body – like interior of black holes – will expand and spread through it by superluminal speed, i.e. like tachyonic gravitational waves in analogy to wave spreading at water surface and underwater.

    Therefore surface of black hole beneath event horizon should reflect gravitation waves like water surface reflects sound waves comming from underwater by total reflection mechanisms, so that event horizon behaves like one-way mirror for energy waves. This concept has a close relation to “hall of mirrors” models of Universe interior and some observation of dim infrared reflection of remote objects.

    In addition, AWT considers high-pressure model of superconductivity, by which charge carriers are forced in chaotic motion due their repulsive interactions, which are compensating mutually inside of charge stripes of HT superconductors.

    Black hole is formed by highly collapsed system of particles, which are forming superfluid condensate, by the simmilar way, like charge carriers inside of superconductors, so that every superconductor can serve as a low density model of black hole interior and it should reflect gravitational waves by its inner surface as well.

    In adition, virtual excitations inside of superconductors would correspond virtual particle excitations inside of vacuum, forming the interior of black hole, i.e. the massive particles, which we can observe around us in analogy to holographic theory. Note that holographic theory requires tachyonic gravitational waves and a black hole Universe model as well to be able to work in transparent way.

    I hope, these simple mechanical models could improve consistent understanding of concept, which Chiao group has proposed.

  5. Zephir says:

    The above model brings an interesting analogy here between superconductivity induced by presence of hole stripes and black hole formation at the center of galaxies.

    By AWT superconducting phase appears at the center of hole clusters, because tiny particles (electrons) are mutually collapsed by attractive forces of larger objects (holes formed by atom nuclei). Analogously, black holes appears like vacuum condensate at the center of gallaxies, because particle of vacuum are colapsed together here by attraction of larger objects – i.e. by stars near center of gallaxy.

    By relativity a black hole is formed, whenever event radius encircles a mass, the critical density of which exceeds Schwartzild criterion R = 2 GM. For large black holes the critical density is relativelly low and it could be achieved even by bulk density of massive bodies surrounding the center of gallaxy.

    It would mean, the black holes are formed automatically, whenever sufficient number of massive objects appers at same place by the same way, like superconducting phase appears, whenever sufficient concentration of holes is reached inside of electron fluid. The lack of black holes at the center of small stellar clusters (i.e. dwarf gallaxies) supports this view.

  6. John says:

    To reiterate Jasper’s comment, there does seem to be significant similarities between this experiment and the Minigrail project that took place in the Netherlands.

  7. ZEPHIR says:

    Many aspects of Minigrail arrangement are dual to proposal of Chiao and co. By Chio we should have a pair of spheres, which are as lightweight as possible. By Minigrail only one sphere is involved, it must be massive and only surface modes of its vibrations are detected, not the motion of sphere as such.

  8. Alexander says:

    Sadly the team has not spent time on further conclusions.
    A true commutative conversion of gravity waves with existing electromagnetic waves would indeed force the question of gravity-shielding. Not very unlike to a Faraday effect.
    At the same moment repulsion could be turned into propulsion. Gravity generation would lead to control of spacial geometry and thus be a very elegant way to move through space.
    Well I guess that 104 years after the last break-through-concept it would be very nice to now move to the next break-through-concept. Be that quantum communication, where we are heading for a definitely long awaited solution or manipulation of gravity waves, where with our expert abilities with regards to electromagnetic waves we could expect some very interesting applications. Let’s see which break-through will be first.

  9. [...] Superconductors and Gravity Wave Mirrors The arXiv is currently abuzz with discussion of a recent paper concerning the interactions between gravitational waves and superconductors. The suggestion is that the cooper pairs that give superconductors their exceptional properties will interact differently with gravitational waves than conventional particles. This is because cooper pairs are ‘pseudoparticles’ that are de-localized within the superconductor – they have no real location in the system. The end result of this is that superconductors might be able to act as reflectors for gravity waves. [...]

  10. stringph says:

    Chiao has been trying to put forward similar proposals for several years now, about how superconductors can allegedly convert between gravitational and electromagnetic radiation.

    Unfortunately no-one believes him, and for good reason. If it were the case that simply delocalizing the wavefunction neutralised the force of gravity, as he seems to be saying, then Bose-Einstein condensates would not follow geodesic trajectories. But they do. People throw them up in the air (well, vacuum) inside their apparatus and they fall down.

    If you bother to almost anyone in gravitational physics they will react with absolute incredulity to Chiao’s claims…

  11. stringph says:

    A curious application of technology:

    - apparently he got 100,000 dollars from the Templetons (them again) to build an – inevitably non-functioning – spherical superconducting gravitational wave antenna and test whether or not there was a beginning to the universe …

    “Religious discussions of cosmological contingency – whether or not the universe depends on something beyond itself for its own existence and order – have typically encompassed more than the issue of temporal origination, but it has always been a central issue in the West. It remains important today, both for its continued place in contemporary religious discussions of contingency and for the apparent hint of a temporal beginning in the big bang model, which has repeatedly led atheistically-minded scientists to seek out plausible no-beginning scenarios …”

    Co-principal investigator is one Kirk Wegter-McNelly, Assistant Professor of Theology,
    Boston University School of Theology.