Overview 

Our research focuses on developing new instrumentation to study the formation and evolution of the universe through precision measurements of microwave radiation. Past measurements of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) provided an exquisite picture of the early universe, which combined with astronomical observations at other wavelengths led to strong evidence that we live in a dark energy and dark matter dominated universe; however, we still do not fully understand fundamental aspects of the universe. What are dark energy and dark matter? Did inflation occur in the early universe, and can we understand it? How did the primordial fluctuations evolve into galaxies, stars, and planets? What physical models best describe the past, present, and future of the cosmos?

The instruments we are developing will help address aspects of these questions with more sensitive observations at millimeter and sub-millimeter wavelengths. We will survey the CMB temperature and polarization in unprecedented detail, enabling a wide range of science objectives, including: new constraints on the physics of inflation, new probes of dark energy, characterization of the dark matter distribution, measurements of the neutrino mass sum, and the discovery of both galaxy clusters and high-redshift galaxies.

In 2008 observations began with the six-meter Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT, photo above), located at 5190 meters elevation in the Chilean desert. The ACT data has led to a variety of results, including first detections of the power spectrum of CMB gravitational lensing as well as the kinematic Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect (see publications and people for details). We are now involved in ACTPol – the first polarization sensitive receiver for ACT. ACTPol includes the largest CMB polarimeter arrays yet deployed. We are working on characterizing the instrument, running observations, next generation upgrades, and analyzing ACTPol data, including cross-correlating the data with measurements from other observatories that span the electromagnetic spectrum.

Another exciting aspect of our research is that advances in millimeter and sub-millimeter radiation measurements are largely being driven by the development of new superconducting and optical techniques. Niemack helped to design, build, and deploy some of the largest arrays of superconducting detectors yet, with thousands of transition-edge sensor (TES) detectors cooled to sub-Kelvin temperatures. TES detectors are becoming a widely used technology spanning eight orders of magnitude in detection energy (from CMB bolometers to gamma ray microcalorimeters). Arrays of TESes are generally measured using multiplexed superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDs). We are working on new detector and SQUID measurement technologies to enable readout of even larger superconducting detector arrays, and are developing new optics and instrument designs to couple to these arrays in next generation observatories. We will also work in the Cornell Nanoscale Facility developing new optics and detector microfabrication techniques that can be tested and integrated in our laboratory.

The people, research, and publications pages provide more information about us and the science, observatories, and technologies we are working on to improve our understanding of the universe.