Nottingham scientists make breakthrough into workings of a black hole – using a bath

Video: The University of Nottingham team researching into black holes

A group of Nottingham scientists have made a breakthrough in understanding how a black hole works by using a specially designed bath.

A team at the University of Nottingham have created the first lab evidence of the black holes using water and a generator to create waves.

Dr Silke Weinfurtner led the team which built the bath and said it has been ‘exciting to work on’.

The analogue black hole created in a bath (Picture: The University of Nottingham)

She said: “It has bought together the expertise of physicists, engineers and technicians to achieve our aim of simulating the conditions of a black hole and proving that superradiance exists.

“We believe our results will motivate further research on the observation of superradiance in astrophysics.”

Video: A simulation of a star going into a black hole by NASA

Superradiance is the energy that a black hole generates – for example, if a spaceship gets near a black hole but does not get sucked into it, it can speed the spaceship up creating a slingshot effect.

Dr Weinfurtner said: “Some of the bizarre black hole phenomena are hard, if not, impossible to study directly.

“This means there are very limited experimental possibilities so this research is quite an achievement.”

Dr Silke Weinfurtner (Picture: The University of Nottingham)

The ‘flume’ is a specially designed 3m long, 1.5m wide and 50cm deep bath with a hole in the centre.

Water is pumped around the bath to create the hole.

Once at the desired depth, waves were then generated at different frequencies until the superradiant effect was created.

Tiny dots of white paper were then punched out by a specially designed sewing machine which was used to measure the speed of the fluid around the black hole.

Sewing machine hole puncher (Picture: The University of Nottingham)

Dr Weinfurtner said the research has ‘grown from humble beginnings’.

“I had the initial idea for a water based experiment when I was at the International School for Advanced Studies in Italy and I set up an experiment with a bucket and a bidet.

“However when it caused a flood I quickly found a lab to work in!”

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