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Microphotonics-based frequency combs for habitable exoplanet detection

Project description

Microresonator astrocombs could boost searches for habitable exoplanets

The EU-funded STARCHIP project is developing a new type of laser frequency comb that could lead to improvements in how scientists search for habitable exoplanets. Laser frequency combs produce spectral lines of light with evenly spaced frequencies that can help observe minute wavelength shifts in the optical spectra of the exoplanet host stars. However, obtaining such frequency comb spectra with resolvable lines is extremely challenging. STARCHIP’s novel class of photonic-chip microresonator-based astrocombs will provide broadband spectra of resolvable lines, potentially from visible to mid-infrared wavelengths, thereby overcoming key challenges in astrocomb generation.

Objective

Without doubt, one of the most intriguing questions in modern astronomy is whether habitable planets, potentially supporting life, exist outside our solar system. In the upcoming era of large aperture astronomical telescopes and highly stable spectrometers, answering these questions is for the first time a tangible possibility. Successfully finding answers to these questions will, however, critically rely on non-incremental advances in astronomical instrumentation. The objective of the proposed research is, developing and demonstrating novel photonic-chip laser frequency combs to support the revolutionary advances in astronomical precision spectroscopy required to enable detection and characterization of habitable Earth-like planets.
Habitable exo-planets can be discovered by observing minute wavelength-shifts in the optical spectra of their host stars. These wavelength-shifts are so small that exquisitely accurate and precise wavelength-calibration of astronomical spectrometers is required. It has been recognized that laser frequency combs (LFCs), broadband spectra of laser-lines with absolutely-known optical frequencies, can provide the required level of precision, provided the LFC’s lines can be resolved by the spectrometer. Generating such frequency comb spectra (“astrocombs�) with resolvable lines remains, however, exceedingly challenging.
Here, we will develop and demonstrate a novel class of photonic-chip microresonator-based astrocombs that can naturally provide broadband spectra of resolvable lines, potentially from visible to mid-infrared wavelengths, thereby overcoming key challenges in astrocomb generation. In order to achieve this goal we will pursue radically different microresonator designs and new nonlinear optical regimes in order to overcome long-standing limitation in microresonator physics. The developed astrocombs will not only be pivotal to astronomy but indeed can directly and profoundly impact the way we transfer data, monitor our environm

Host institution

DEUTSCHES ELEKTRONEN-SYNCHROTRON DESY
Net EU contribution
€ 1 950 000,00
Address
NOTKESTRASSE 85
22607 Hamburg
Germany

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Region
Hamburg Hamburg Hamburg
Activity type
Research Organisations
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Total cost
€ 1 950 000,00

Beneficiaries (1)