Cardiff’s School of Physics and Astronomy is launching the first Welsh-led space research project, which is set to elevate the country’s position into the high-tech manufacturers elite.
Following an application by Cardiff University, three years of research and 2 million pounds worth of funding have been awarded to Cardiff’s own SPACEKIDS project by the European Union’s FP7 (Framework Programme 7).
The main focus of this project is to research, test and produce a new and more effective kind of detector technology, with the finality of being used in real space missions on board of satellites in the near future.
The detectors, called KIDs (Kinetic Inductance Detectors), are part of a new kind of technology capable of combining ultra-sensitive reach with easy production liability. They will be designed to further both the studies in astronomy and the Earth’s own atmosphere, through the process of capturing infrared lights with a wavelength several hundred times longer than visible light.
Talking to The Archer, Professor Matt Griffin, the project coordinator, said: “We are very pleased with the approval of the funding. It demonstrates that Cardiff University is able to work at the highest level of technical expertise and quality, making a significant contribution to a massive international programme”.
Mr. Griffin will not be working alone, has the project will be carried out in partnership with other top research institutes from the Netherlands, France and Spain. In spite of seeing this opportunity as a blessing, he considers that it can also be a burden. “Leading a European Union programme is actually regarded as a big venture with a lot of chains. They tend to be heavy on the administration, with a lot of burocracy going back and forth.”
On the other side, Sam Rowe, PhD student deeply involved in the research of similar technology, finds that: “It’s great to see our work being put into a
European context and having the opportunity to achieve what we’ve been researching for”.
Although the University is working on a research and education basis, there are real commercial prospects coming out from this project, which can contribute to the Welsh economy in the future. National company QMC Instruments Ltd, an old partner of the School of Physics and Astronomy will be carrying out the industrial side of the project, crafting a bridge from the school to the market.
For Mr. Griffin, this project will make possible to reach an empty shelve on the Welsh market. “Through the establishment of little companies like QMC Instruments, we will be helping on the employment of people, as well as exporting new kind of specialized material. This will contribute directly to the economy and to the training of new highly qualified professionals.”
A guided tour through the Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy’s Laboratory where the SPACEKIDs Project is being carried out. (Music “Radioactivity”, credited to Kraftwerk, 1978)