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LIGO’s Frequency Dependent Squeezing Breaks Quantum Limits

LIGO's innovative quantum frequency-dependent squeezing, is reshaping the way we comprehend gravitational waves in the universe. This article explores the impact of this new development on astrophysics.
Frequency Dependent Squeezing

Picture Credit: NASA

In 2015, the scientific community celebrated a monumental achievement in our understanding of the cosmos when the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detected gravitational waves for the first time. This discovery opened a new chapter in astronomy, allowing scientists to observe and study the previously invisible, cataclysmic events that shake the fabric of space and time. However, the precision of LIGO’s measurements was constrained by the fundamental laws of quantum physics, which introduced a quantum noise that interfered with its observations. LIGO has pioneered a new technology known as “frequency-dependent squeezing” and this is revolutionizing our ability to detect gravitational waves.

The Quantum Noise Challenge

LIGO’s extraordinary success is in its capacity to measure the stretching and squeezing of spacetime at incredibly small scales, approximately 10,000 trillion times smaller than a human hair. These measurements were challenged by quantum noise, a product of the inherent uncertainty in the quantum realm, which manifested as a background hiss in LIGO’s laser-based measurements. This noise created limitations in LIGO’s sensitivity, hindering its ability to observe gravitational waves accurately.

Squeezing Away Quantum Noise

To overcome this quantum limit, LIGO researchers have employed what they called “squeezing.” Squeezing is a technique to reduce quantum noise or, more precisely, to shift it from one parameter to another, enabling more precise measurements. The fundamental principle behind squeezing is rooted in the Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics, which states that you cannot know both the position and momentum of particles (or the frequency and power of light) simultaneously. Squeezing involves manipulating the properties of light to make it more precise in one aspect, such as its frequency, while introducing uncertainty in another aspect, such as its power.

The Tradeoff of Precision

Since 2019, LIGO had been applying squeezing to enhance the sensitivity of its detectors. However, there was a trade-off. Squeezing light to improve measurements at higher frequencies made measurements less precise at lower frequencies, limiting LIGO’s ability to detect gravitational waves across a broad spectrum.

Frequency-Dependent Squeezing: A Quantum Solution

The breakthrough came with the development of “frequency-dependent squeezing.” LIGO’s new technology allows them to selectively apply squeezing to different frequency ranges of gravitational waves. This means that they can now control and mitigate quantum noise for various types of gravitational wave signals. By doing this, they have effectively broadened their range of observation and improved their sensitivity, resulting in a more comprehensive view of the Universe’s gravitational events.

Challenges and Rewards

Frequency-dependent squeezing does come with its challenges. The technique pushes quantum noise from one aspect to another, introducing some complications. For instance, increasing the power of laser beams to achieve better precision can lead to additional noise at lower frequencies. However, the advantage of this technology is that it significantly improves LIGO’s overall sensitivity while maintaining flexibility in controlling quantum noise.

How the Quantum Squeezing Concept Started

The concept of squeezing light traces its roots back to the late 1970s, with theoretical studies by physicists like Vladimir Braginsky and experiments by researchers like H. Jeff Kimble in 1986. The idea of implementing squeezing in LIGO detectors was conceived in 2002, and experimental demonstrations began in 2008. The road to perfecting the technology was long and filled with troubleshooting. However, the result is a revolutionary advancement in gravitational wave detection.

Expanding Our Gravitational Universe

With the introduction of frequency-dependent squeezing, LIGO has unlocked the potential for detecting more black hole and neutron star collisions, furthering our understanding of these mysterious cosmic phenomena. The enhanced precision opens up new possibilities for observing and studying the Universe’s most dramatic events.

Future Prospects

LIGO’s pioneering work in quantum technology not only benefits astrophysics but also has wider implications for quantum computing, microelectronics, and fundamental physics experiments. As gravitational wave detection technology continues to advance, it will expand our understanding of the Universe’s most enigmatic processes.


LIGO’s groundbreaking work in the field of gravitational wave detection, coupled with recent advancements in quantum technology like frequency-dependent squeezing, is reshaping our understanding of the cosmos. The ability to observe the most exotic celestial events with greater precision holds the promise of uncovering the secrets of the Universe.

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