Scheme: University Research Fellowship
Organisation: University of Nottingham
Dates: Jan 2013-Dec 2017
Summary: The universe began with a Big Bang explosion that sent everything flying apart. As all objects in the universe are attracted to one another by gravity eventually galaxies should stop moving apart and matter should re-collapse on itself. The most startling thing we have learnt about the universe in the last decade is that not only are galaxies not re-collapsing, but they are beginning to fly apart with ever increasing speed. Nothing in the physics that we understand can explain this observation. There must be a new and mysterious substance in the Universe which behaves unlike anything we know. We call this substance Dark Energy.
We know that dark energy acts as a new force and my research focuses on how this affects other types of matter in the universe. Dark energy behaves unlike the other forces we know; it is strong in vacuum but weak in dense environments like the Earth, which explains why we do not see it in our everyday lives. The effects of a dark energy force can be significant in laboratory vacuums and intergalactic space. Any experiment conducted in such an environment could be used to look for dark energy. My research aims to develop the theory describing how the dark energy force changes its strength and to develop new experimental and observational tests of such theories. Many new constraints can be placed on dark energy using measurements that were made in diffuse environments for other purposes.
The main goal of my research is to develop new ways in which to search for and understand dark energy. If we do not know how dark energy behaves and all of the constraints on dark energy from current experiments the power of upcoming experiments will be wasted because we will be unable to accurately target them at the most viable scenarios.