Heriot-Watt scientists plan the black hole of Edinburgh

A Nasa photo of two black holes on a collision course
A Nasa photo of two black holes on a collision course
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IT IS the most destructive force in the known universe, containing forces so powerful that not even light can escape – and now scientists are hoping to re-create the conditions of a black hole in the heart of the Capital.

Researchers at Heriot- Watt University have secured funding for experiments they hope will revolutionise computing and improve understanding of the astronomical phenomena.

While the £2.35 million funding from the European Research Council will involve cutting-edge experiments, however, those behind the project have insisted there’s no cause for alarm – describing their version as “an analogue” black hole, which mimics the effects of a real one without the threat of ripping space and time apart in west Edinburgh.

Dr Brian Gerardot and Dr Daniele Faccio, from the Institute of Photonics and Quantum Sciences, hope this research will eventually help to revolutionise information and communication, as well as testing some of the fundamental laws of physics.

Dr Faccio, who specialises in engineering and physical sciences, will be using the money to discover what we can learn by combining black hole physics and laser physics for the first time.

He told the News: “The basic idea is that we’ll be doing some fundamental research, trying to understand more about black hole physics by applying what we already know about laser physics. Lasers are also still an object of intense research, and people keep building bigger and better ones.”

Dr Faccio hopes the laser he is currently working on will eventually emit over 100 pulses per second, each pulse measured in trillions of watts, the power of which will be used to create the “analogue” black hole.

“There’s a lot we still want to learn about cosmological black holes, but we can’t go to the centre of the universe and test them – yet. We’re trying to generate exactly the same conditions that you would find around a gravitational black hole so we can control and tune the conditions and try to make these black holes do something useful for us.”

Dr Gerardot, who specialises in condensed matter physics, will use his part of the funding to test new quantum technology, which he says could have huge implications for creating everything from faster computers to new drugs.

“In the long term, our experiments on processing information could lead, for example, to exponentially faster searching algorithms. Or if, for example, a new virus was created we could simulate drugs and medicines that would combat it from the ground up.

“Normal computers can’t do this because they don’t have the informational capacity to cope with the number of different atoms involved and all the possible ways they could link up, but a quantum computer could.

“For a relatively small budget and using a relatively small space – our lab bench is the size of a kitchen table – we can do some ground-breaking experiments.”