Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics
The Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute/AEI) is the largest research institute in the world specializing in general relativity and beyond.
Scientists at AEI do research into the entire spectrum of General Relativity and beyond: from the huge dimensions of outer space to the tiny scales of strings. Its two branches in Potsdam and Hannover support research in astrophysics, theoretical physics, mathematics, and experimental physics. The AEI operates the German-British GEO600 gravitational wave detector near Hannover, Germany, is a partner in the US LIGO project and plays a key role in space-based gravitational wave research. This comprises the development and operation of large gravitational-wave detectors on the ground as well as in space, but also a full range of supporting laboratory experiments in quantum optics, atomic physics, laser physics and control systems.
For the complex and compute-intensive analysis of data from the worldwide network of gravitational-wave detectors, the institute operates the Atlas computer cluster. Atlas is the world's largest computer cluster dedicated to gravitational-wave data analysis.
Earth-based gravitational wave observatories
The German-British GEO600 project is a think tank for the international network of gravitational wave observatories. Based on the technique of laser interferometry GEO600-scientists are developing and applying a variety of techniques for detecting gravitational waves over a wide range of frequencies. Major hardware upgrades for the next generation of the US and European detectors are based on these technologies.
Space-based gravitational wave detectors
AEI scientists are leading the design and development of LISA, a future gravitational wave observatory in space, aimed at detecting gravitational waves at milli-Hertz frequencies. Preparations for LISA include ESA's LISA Pathfinder mission to be launched in 2015. LISA Pathfinder will probe Einstein's geodesic motion at an unprecedented level, giving a first glimpse at what will be achieved with a large gravitational wave observatory.
Knowledge transfer to climate research
LISA technology is now also being used for Earth observation and will improve future satellite geodesy missions. The joint US-German satellite mission GRACE Follow-On will observe the critical indicators of climate change through changes in Earth's gravitational field.