Dr Robert Ward

Dr Robert Ward
Research Fellow
Department of Quantum Science
Office phone
Gravity Wave Building 1 80


Robert Ward has been working to detect gravitational waves since 2003, when he joined the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) lab as a PhD student at the California Institute of Technology.  There he worked at the 40m interferometer, prototyping the Advanced LIGO and searching for a stochastic background of gravitational waves. From Caltech he went to the Astroparticle and Cosmology Laboratory (APC) in Paris, where he carried out the optical design for the Advanced Virgo gravitational wave detector.  He is now a Research Fellow in the Centre for Gravitational Physics at the Australian National University.  At the ANU, his work includes technology development for gravitational wave detection, precision measurement in space/satellite technology, and the development of methods and techniques for space debris tracking and mitigation. He is an author of over 116 peer reviewed publications.  

Grants and awards

Instrumentation for the era of Gravitational Wave Science  

Australian Research Council Discovery Project 160100760
D. McClelland, R. Ward, J. Munch, S. Rowan, G. Hammond, R. Adhikari 

This project aims to study noise sources that limit the low-frequency performance of gravitational wave antenna: thermal noise, quantum radiation pressure noise and Newtonian noise. Gravitational wave detection is a new way in which to observe our universe. Although detectors such as advanced LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) should detect gravitational waves, further sensitivity improvement, particularly at low frequencies, will be needed to provide event rates necessary for astronomy. Expected project outcomes will support the development of the first free mass interferometer to operate at 120K using silicon optics, a vital facility for the world community. Pushing the boundaries of measurement may also drive innovation in optical sensing with potential applications in defence, security and exploration.

Coherent laser links for space applications

Australian Research Council LIEF 160100045
M. Tobar, D. Shaddock, K. Schreiber, C. Salomon, M. Wouters, J. Dawson, S. Schediwy, R. Ward, M. Gray 

Coherent laser links for space applications: This project seeks equipment to establish a deployable, free-space, coherent laser link to enable Australia’s continued leadership and involvement in large-scale international space projects. It would support optical free-space frequency transfer to expand the capability of the European Space Agency’s Atomic Clock Ensemble in Space mission; tests to validate the inter-satellite interferometry acquisition system for the NASA Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment follow-on mission; and test-bed development for advanced coherent optical communications systems. Coherent, free-space laser links are an emerging technology for a range of high-impact research fields. The project would enable research relying on precision measurements of time and frequency; advanced inter-satellite laser interferometry, and coherent free-space optical communications.

Equipment for international collaboration in next-gen gravitational wave detectors

Australian Research Council LIEF 160100044
D. Blair, C. Zhao, L. Ju, D. McClelland, B. Slagmolen, R. Ward, G. Cole,
M. Aspelmeyer, D. Farrant, S. Rowan, P. Fritschel, X. Lin, H. Wang, S. Han, J. Gao 

Equipment for international collaboration in next-generation gravitational wave detectors: This project aims to create a silicon optics research facility which combines Australian capabilities in silicon manufacturing at nanometre precision, with revolutionary crystalline mirror technology. The equipment is designed to enable international teams of physicists to research the optical and acoustic properties of silicon in high optical power and high precision silicon measurement systems. Research facilitated by this equipment may pave the way for the next generation of ultra-low-noise systems required for gravitational wave detection, while opening the possibility of multiple new applications in precision measurement devices.

Publication highlights

  • A. Wade, G. Mansell, S. Chua, R. Ward, B. Slagmolen, D. Shaddock, D. McClelland `A squeezed light source operated under high-vacuum' Sci. Rep. 5, 18052, 2015

  • J. Aasi et al. (The LIGO Scientific Collaboration) `Advanced LIGO', Classical and Quantum Gravity 32(7), 074001, 2015.

  • F. Acernese et al. (The Virgo Collaboration) `Advanced Virgo: a second-generation interferometric gravitational wave detector', Classical and Quantum Gravity 32 (2), 024001, 2015.

  • L. E. Roberts, R. L. Ward, A. J. Sutton, R. Fleddermann, G. de Vine, E. A. Malikides, D. M. R. Wuchenich, D. E. McClelland, and D. A. Shaddock, `Coherent beam combining using a 2D internally sensed optical phased array', Applied Optics 53 22 4881-4885 (2014)

  • B. Abbott et al. (The LIGO Scientific Collaboration) `LIGO: The laser interferometer gravitational-wave observatory', Reports on Progress in Physics 72 076901, 2009.

  • M. Evans, et al. `Observation of Parametric Instability in Advanced LIGO' Physical Review Letters, 114(16), 161102, 2015.

  • A Staley, et al. `Achieving resonance in the Advanced LIGO gravitational-wave interferometer' Clas- sical and Quantum Gravity, 31(24):245010, 2014.

  • Y. Ma, et al. `Narrowing the Filter-Cavity Bandwidth in Gravitational-Wave Detectors via Optomechan- ical Interaction', Physical Review Letters 113 151102 (2014)

  • R. L. Ward, et al. `The design and construction of a prototype lateral-transfer retro-reflector for inter- satellite laser ranging', Classical and Quantum Gravity 31 095015 (2014)

  • R Fleddermann, RL Ward, et al.. `Testing the GRACE follow-on triple mirror assembly' Classical and Quantum Gravity 31(19):195004, 2014.

  • S. P. Francis, et al. `Weak-light phase tracking with a low cycle slip rate', Optics Letters 39 18 5251- 5254 (2014)

  • M. Granata, C. Buy, R. Ward, and M. Barsuglia, `Higher-order Laguerre-Gauss Mode Generation and Interferometry for Gravitational Wave Detection', Physical Review Letters 105 231102 (2010).

  • B. Abbott, et al., (The LIGO and Virgo Collaborations) `An upper limit on the stochastic gravitational- wave background of cosmological origin' Nature 460 (2009) 990

  • R.L. Ward, et al. `DC Readout Experiment at the Caltech 40m Prototype Interferometer', Classical and Quantum Gravity 25 No 11 (7 June 2008) 114030.

  • K. Goda, et al. `A Quantum-Enhanced Prototype Gravitational-Wave Detector', Nature Physics 4, 472 - 476 (01 Jun 2008).

  • S. Sato, K. Kokeyama, R. Ward, et al. 'Demonstration of displacement- and frequency-noise free laser interferometry using bi-directional Mach-Zehnder interferometers', Physical Review Letters 98 141101 (2007).

  • Yanbei Chen, et al. `Interferometers for Displacement-Noise-Free Gravitational-Wave Detection', Physical Review Letters 97 151103 (2006).

  • O. Miyakawa, R. Ward, et al. `Measurement of Optical Response of a Detuned Resonant Sideband Extraction Interferometer', Physical Review D 74 022001 (2006). 

  • J Abadie, et al. (The LIGO and Virgo Collaborations) `Directional limits on persistent gravitational waves using LIGO S5 science data' Physical Review Letters, 107 271102, 2011. 

Research interests

My research interests include interferometry development for precision measurement related to gravitational wave detection, such as the development of squeezed light sources and low-frequency gravitational force sensors, as well as commissioning of the Advanced LIGO interferometers.  Half of my research is also devoted to developing measurement technologies for space applications, including coherent free space laser links, coherent beam combining for high power laser systems, and precision laser tracking and remote manouevring of space debris.  

ScienceWise research articles

ScienceWise Magazine - When Quantum Noise is Deafening
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