Monday's announcement that a team of astronomers working at the South Pole had detected what they say is the first direct evidence of the rapid inflation of the universe at the dawn of time was made possible in part by technology developed and built in Boulder by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
The astronomers, who are widely credited with detecting the origins of the so-called Big Bang almost 14 billion years ago, utilized the BICEP2 telescope. The BICEP2 camera relies, in part, on the extraordinary signal amplification made possible by NIST's superconducting quantum interference devices -- known as SQUIDs.
A team of cosmologists from Harvard University, the University of Minnesota, the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University used BICEP2 to detect telltale patterns in the cosmic microwave background that support the leading theory about the origins of the universe.
Their project was funded by the National Science Foundation.
The patterns, known as B-mode polarization, are the signature of gravitational waves, or ripples in space-time. These waves are direct evidence that the currently observable universe expanded rapidly from a subatomic volume in the first tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang.
NIST researchers made the custom superconducting circuits, or chips, that amplify electrical signals generated by microwave detectors measuring primordial particles of light.
In a news release, physicist Gene Hilton, who was responsible for production of the NIST chips, said, "This is an exciting and important new result, and we are pleased that technology developed at NIST played a role."