Artist’s impression of a gravitational wave

IFAE Research Groups

Gravitational Waves Group

  • Gravitational Waves Group

    In 2019, IFAE initiated a long-term experimental involvement in the Virgo ground-based Fabry-Perot interferometer (Cascina, Italy), with the emphasis of studying fundamental physics using GWs.

    The Gravitational Wave Group is led by Mario Martínez


    The detection of gravitational waves (GWs) from a black hole (BH) binary merger by LIGO in 2015 represented the beginning of a new era in the exploration of the universe. Shortly afterwards, the addition of the Virgo antenna into the network led to the detection of a neutron star (NS) binary merger that could be followed in electromagnetic signals, representing the beginning of multi-messenger astronomy. The new O3 observation run in 2019-2020 witnessed an increase of almost an order of magnitude in the detection rates. Some observed events brought new challenges in understanding the population of BHs from the canonical stellar evolution models. Altogether, GW astronomy has already radically changed the stage for several areas of physics, from astrophysics to particle physics. Nowadays, the study of GWs and BHs is at the forefront of the research in fundamental physics, as it has been recognized by three Nobel prizes in 2017, 2019 and 2020, and is a major item in both HEP and APPEC future roadmaps. The research on GWs has been explicitly included in the Spanish Strategic plan for Science, Technology and Innovation (EECTI) 2021-2027.
    Aerial view of Virgo
    Aerial view of Virgo Credit: The Virgo Collaboration
    IFAE is a member institution inside the VIRGO collaboration and this opens a new long-term research line in IFAE related to GWs detection using terrestrial interferometry.


    IFAE responsibilities within Advanced Virgo (AdV+) relate to the understanding and control of the stray light inside the interferometer, considered a limiting factor for its sensitivity, with an IFAE researcher already coordinating the Virgo Stray Light Control group. IFAE is instrumenting very sensitive and delicate parts of Virgo (the areas covered by baffles surrounding the suspended mirrors under vacuum) with many photo sensors to monitor and control the stray light propagating throughout the interferometer.

    Rear-side view of a suspended mirror
    The image shows the rear-side view of a suspended mirror. The coating reflects the Virgo near-infrared laser beam, but is transparent in the visible range. A scientist is finally releasing the safety stops used during installation. The 42kg-mass mirror is suspended from four thin fused-silica fibres, which are bonded to the sides of the mirror. Credit: EGO/Virgo Collaboration/Perciballi

    Physics program

    The group has put in place a strong physics program with three main pillars:

    • the search and study of compact binary coalescence events with emphasis on fundamental physics related to tests of General Relativity and dark matter searches;
    • the use of GW for cosmological tests;
    • the search for stochastic GW signals as probes of the early universe.

    A strong experiment–theory collaboration within IFAE has been established for this purpose. In addition, the group is a main actor in the understanding of the interferometer using detailed simulations.

  • Group Members

    Gravitational Waves Group

    Staff Researchers

    • Matteo Cavalli-Sforza

      Matteo Cavalli-Sforza

    • Eugenio Coccia

      Eugenio Coccia

    • Mario Martínez

      Mario Martínez

    • Lluïsa Mir

      Lluïsa Mir

    Visitor Researchers

    • Michele Maggiore

      Michele Maggiore

    Postdoc Researchers

    • Machiel Kolstein

      Machiel Kolstein

    • Ornella Piccinni

      Ornella Piccinni

    • Monica Seglar

      Monica Seglar

    PhD Students

    • Marc Andres

      Marc Andres

    • Giada Caneva

      Giada Caneva

    • Catalina Miritescu

      Catalina Miritescu

    • Dounia Nanadoumgar Lacroze

      Dounia Nanadoumgar Lacroze

  • International Collaborations

    Gravitational Waves Group

    Aerial view of Virgo



    Virgo is a Gravitational Wave detector, hosted by the European Gravitational Observatory (EGO), near Pisa, Italy.

      Pisa, Italy
    Einstein Telescope


    Einstein Telescope

    The Einstein Telescope (ET) is a proposed underground infrastructure to host a third-generation, gravitational-wave observatory. The Einstein Telescope will achieve a greatly improved sensitivity by increasing the size of the interferometer from the 3km arm length of the Virgo detector to 10km, and by implementing a series of new technologies.

  • Research Projects

    Gravitational Waves Group


    Preparatory Phase for the Einstein Telescope Gravitational Wave Observatory (ET-PP)

    Einstein Telescope will be the European Third-Generation Gravitational Wave Observatory, designed to observe the Universe by covering the whole spectrum observable from Earth with interferometric GW detectors.The ET preparatory phase (ET-PP) will address a number of fundamental prerequisites for the approval, construction and operation of the Einstein Telescope. Project coordinated by IFAE.

    Aerial view of Virgo

    Proyectos I+D Generación de Conocimiento, 2020

    Física de ondas gravitacionales interferometros terrestres

    The IFAE group participates in the Virgo experiment to study gravitational waves, including hardware, software/simulations, physics analysis, operations and commissioning of the interferometer, and R&D for future facilities. Their project includes building instrumented baffles for Virgo to monitor stray light distribution, contributing to commissioning and calibration of the interferometer, and conducting physics research such as searches for binary systems and measuring the Hubble constant using GWs as standard sirens.

      H2020-MSCA-RISE, 2020

      Probes of new physics and technological advancements from particle and gravitational wave physics experiments (PROBES)

      The PROBES project will investigate various aspects of particle physics and cosmology, including color confinement, dark matter, neutrino oscillations, and gravitational waves. The project will involve collaborations with international laboratories and the development of cutting-edge experiments to explore these phenomena.

      Aerial view of Virgo

      H2020-ICT, 2016


      NEWS aims to enhance collaboration among European, US, and Japanese research institutions in key areas of fundamental physics. This includes the operation of the largest gravitational wave observatories, a gamma-ray telescope, X-ray polarization detectors, particle accelerators, and innovative detectors to open new 'windows' in fundamental physics.

      • Publications

        Gravitational Waves Group

      • Group News


        Test facility ETpathfinder enters new phase

        March 12, 2024

        The IFAE contributions to the ETpathfinder test facility is described in this article “Test facility ETpathfinder enters new phase ”.


        Alba Romero-Rodriguez winner of the 2023 Virgo Awards

        November 15, 2023

        Alba Romero-Rodriguez (former PhD Student at IFAE and now at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel) is one of the wiiners of the third edition of the Virgo Awards

        New Publication

        New GW group publication

        May 8, 2023

        Searches for mass-asymmetric compact binary coalescence events using neural networks in the LIGO/Virgo third observation period by M. Andrés-Carcasona, A. Menéndez-Vázquez, M. Martínez, and Ll. M. Mir has been published by Phys.Rev.D

        IFAE organization

        New positions in the IFAE Organization

        January 16, 2023

        Mario Martinez, ICREA professor at IFAE and head of the Gravitational Waves Group, is the new Director of the Experimental Division and takes on the role of IFAE Deputy Director. Martine Bosman, retiring Director of the Experimental Division, assumes the status of IFAE Emeritus.

        New Member

        New Member in the GW group

        November 9, 2022

        Monica Seglar-Arroyo is a new postdoc at the GW group with a Juan de la Cierva junior contract.

        New Member

        New member in the GW Group

        October 5, 2022

        Maria Paola Vaccaro has just joined the GW group as PhD student.