Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum’s technology has been used to help scientifically prove the existence of gravitational waves, as originally speculated in Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

The vacuum and measuring equipment, manufactured by the German corporation, has provided an important contribution to this discovery: that gravity is created because mass causes a curvature of spacetime.

The tiny waves, moving at the speed of light, have been discovered by the GEO 600 – a gravitational wave detector designed by the Cologne-based company.

Merging binary black holes oerlikon leybold vacuum

Merging binary black holes - Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum

Large parts of the GEO 600 instrument were developed and tested in Hanover, Germany, and then incorporated into two big US Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) measuring stations, in Louisiana and Washington, to find the proof for Einstein’s gravitational waves.

LIGO measures the spacetime with two 4km tubes, which come together on the ground as a pipeline. The lengths of the arms are monitored via a laser system on the inside of the tubes so if a gravitational wave moves through the unit, it compresses and stretches the arms to a different degree.

The GEO 600 can detect sizes of about 0.0001 of the diameter of a nucleus and contains dry compressing screw vacuum pumps manufactured by Leybold Vacuum. These pumps, part of the SCREWLINE vacuum pump range, have a high degree of flexibility and use universal flanges or clamping flanges to enable simple integration into systems such as the GEO 600.

Parallel research

Further parallel research projects have been carried out simultaneously in Italy and Japan, with both locations utilising machines manufactured by the German corporation.

It is not impossible that these discoveries will be awarded with the Nobel Prize for Physics in the future


The VIRGO wave detector in Pisa has been using Leybold measuring technology and mass spectrometers for the past 15 years, whilst the KAGRA project in the Japanese city of Ida features the largest vacuum system volume currently in use in the North Pacific rim country.

Dr. Martin Füllenbach, CEO of Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum, said, “This scientific sensation illustrates once again the importance of our technological solutions for research applications of fundamental significance. We are very proud to further accompany and support the leading research institutes also in the years to come.”

A press release from Oerlikon stated, “It is not impossible that these discoveries will be awarded with the Nobel Prize for Physics in the future.”