First grant from R&D scheme Einstein Telescope for high-tech companies

February 19, 2024

A consortium of the companies Demcon kryoz from Enschede and Cooll from Hengelo and the University of Twente will receive a grant to develop an advanced cooling system for the Einstein Telescope. This huge observatory for gravitational waves may be built 250 to 300 meters below the Earth's surface in the Dutch-Belgian-German border area to allow undisturbed measurements. Vibration-free cooling to very low temperatures is necessary to detect the very weak signals from the universe. The three parties are using their fundamental knowledge and industrial expertise of vibration-free cooling to make gravity wave measurements much more accurate. To this end, they will receive 2.6 million euros over a three-year period from the R&D scheme for the Einstein Telescope, funded by the National Growth Fund.


Gravitational waves resulting from extreme events in the universe, such as the merging of two black holes, were predicted by the great physicist Albert Einstein. A century later, in 2015, they were observed for the first time by two American observatories. In Europe, work is now underway on a new, extremely sensitive detector, the Einstein Telescope. This will allow researchers to make many more observations of "ripples in the space-time fabric. In this way, they want to better understand the birth process of black holes and gain more insight into the nature of the universe immediately after the Big Bang. They can also use the new underground 'telescope' to further test predictions of Einstein's theory of relativity. 
In order to stimulate innovation and accelerated development of new technologies for the Einstein Telescope, the ET valorization program was launched in the fall of 2023. Part of this program is a R&D scheme for high-tech companies.

Minister Dijkgraaf of Education, Culture and Science: "Fantastic to see this consortium getting to work to develop the technology for the Einstein Telescope. This collaboration between knowledge institutions and companies shows how joining forces can lead to groundbreaking research and innovation. The Einstein Telescope promises not only new scientific discoveries, but also economic growth and jobs. Although we are not yet sure where the telescope will soon be located, this collaboration is an important investment in our country and international science."

Three-stage cooling system

For the Einstein Telescope, the three parties joined forces last year when the first call of the R&D scheme was opened. It was recently announced that their proposal was honored. The Twente consortium will receive €2.6 million for a period of three years to make the technology suitable for the Einstein Telescope. To this end, they will develop a three-stage cooling system. That works with three different coolants, neon, hydrogen and helium, to go from -195 °C (78K) (the temperature reached with liquid nitrogen, which starts the cooling process) to the final and most difficult step to -263 °C  (10K). They will eventually build three of them, one for research at the UT in Enschede and two for the ETpathfinder, the R&D lab for gravitational wave detectors, in Maastricht. 

Scaling up

Pieter Lerou, managing director of Demcon kryoz, was ultimately responsible for the proposal: "The principle for vibration-free cooling is well known and we have made it work on an industrial scale. But that was with a microcooler, whereas the coolers for the Einstein Telescope work with an immense compressor and much higher power. This scale-up still requires a lot of fundamental research. For this, we will use our knowledge of cryogenic technology and our experience in designing, modeling and building high-tech cooling systems. We also bring in our expertise of systems engineering. We ensure that all the knowledge and expertise and all the necessary components come together and that as the end result a reliable working system is delivered on schedule and within budget. This is certainly necessary, because with the outcome of our project we are contributing to the bid book for the Dutch-Belgian-German location of the Einstein Telescope."


Program Manager Jorg van der Meij (LIOF, on behalf of the Dutch Regional Development Companies): "Today we celebrate a milestone in the Einstein Telescope valorization program, where a consortium of visionary companies and a leading knowledge institution has received the first R&D grant. Their innovative plans around vibration-free cooling not only strengthen the candidacy for the Einstein Telescope but are also promising for other sectors and applications. Consider, for example, aerospace engineering or the semiconductor industry. Vibration-free cooling will also become important in electric flight."

Dutch-Belgian-German initiative

The Einstein Telescope is to become part of Europe's major research infrastructure. There are now two competing initiatives for an underground site. Besides Sardinia, it is the border area of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. That is suitable for an underground observatory because the soft topsoil blocks vibrations from human activity on the surface, so measurements will not be disturbed. The location of the Einstein Telescope will be decided in 2025/2026 and construction should start around 2030. A large number of universities and scientific institutions from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany are now working on a joint candidacy.

Vibration-free cooling: development of vibration-free cooling of mirrors to temperature 10-20 K.

About Demcon kryoz
Demcon kryoz, part of the Demcon group, in Enschede develops advanced solutions for the efficient cooling or heating of high-tech systems. Applications are in the fields of scientific instrumentation, materials research, telecommunications and medical diagnostics. The expertise ranges from cryogenic to extremely high temperatures. To this end, Demcon kryoz has specific physical knowledge, extensive experience with modeling, test setups and its own products, such as cryogenic microcoolers.

About Cooll
Cooll in Hengelo (Ov) develops sustainable heating and cooling based on adsorption technology. The heart of the technology is activated carbon. Cooll has developed the production technology for this with an American partner and set up a factory for it in the Netherlands. For residential heating, the company now builds heat pumps that work with activated carbon in the heat-driven adsorption compressor.

About University of Twente
The University of Twente in Enschede (12,500 students, 3,900 employees) is a "smart living lab" where students and staff provide groundbreaking research, surprising innovations and inspiring education. The Energy, Materials & Systems (EMS) group of the Faculty of Applied Sciences conducts research on superconductivity and cryogenic technology. Applications are in the field of renewable energy (including nuclear fusion and high-power electricity transmission) and scientific research. EMS contributes to CERN (elementary particles), ESA (space exploration) and the Einstein Telescope (gravitational waves), among others.

About LIOF
LIOF is the regional development agency for Limburg and supports innovative entrepreneurs with advice, network and financing. We are available for every start-up, scaleup and small and medium-sized busines (SME) with an innovative idea, a business plan or a financing request and for (foreign) entrepreneurs who want to establish themselves in Limburg. We also help with cross-border cooperation and international trade. Together with entrepreneurs and partners, we are working towards a smarter, more sustainable and healthier Limburg by focusing on the transitions of energy, circularity, health and digitalization.

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