The project brings together some of the leading European institutes with expertise in detectors for far infrared wavelengths – a few hundred times longer than the wavelength of visible light.
Current far infrared detectors being used on board spacecraft are very difficult to manufacture and operate. Research carried out by Cardiff's School of Physics and Astronomy to manufacture novel Kinetic Inductance Detectors (KIDs) offers a very real prospect of ultra-sensitive cameras which are easy to make and use.
Project Coordinator, Professor Matt Griffin of Cardiff University's School of Physics and Astronomy, said: "SPACEKIDS is a fantastic initiative for Cardiff University and for space science and technology in Wales. With this project we aim to pave the way for a new generation of scientific instruments to gain a better understanding of the Universe, and of our own planet.
"This is the first Welsh-led European Union space research programme, and it rests upon the cutting edge research carried out in the School of Physics and Astronomy, and the investments in staff and facilities that the University has made in recent years."
Lead researcher of the Cardiff SPACEKIDS team, and inventor of one variant of the KID detector, Dr. Simon Doyle of the School of Physics and Astronomy said: "It is wonderful to get this project started. With the expertise and state-of the art facilities of the team here at Cardiff and in our partner institutes, we are well placed to make a huge technical advance."
Ken Wood, Sales and Marketing Director of QMC Instruments Ltd., a Cardiff-based SME which is one of the project's industrial partners, said: "Besides the exciting scientific applications that it will enable, SPACEKIDS will open up new possibilities for commercial and industrial use. We will be delighted to participate in this programme, both in providing high-tech components to the research team and in enabling commercial exploitation of the results."
Scientists and industrialists from the Netherlands, France, and Spain gathered at the Cardiff University School of Physics and Astronomy for the project kick-off meeting on 28 and 29 January.