The first pixels of the QUIJOTE 30 GHz instrument have been manufactured and are being integrated in the cryostat. First light is expected for March 2015.
The CONSOLIDER-Ingenio program from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation is a strategic line that seeks to achieve research excellence by fostering the cooperation between outstanding research groups. The Exploring the Physics of Inflation (EPI) CONSOLIDER project involves several research groups from Spain and Europe working on theoretical and instrumentation aspects of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), including the Instituto de Física de Cantabria (CSIC-Universidad de Cantabria), the Instituto Astrofísico de Canarias, the Departamento de Ingenieria de las Comunicaciones at the University of Cantabria, the University of Granada, the Universidad del Pais Vasco, the University of Cambridge, the University of Manchester and the University of Chalmers, among others.
The main goal of the EPI-CONSOLIDER project is the observational study of the physics of the inflationary period of the universe using CMB data from the QUIJOTE (Q, U, I Joint TEnerife) experiment and the Planck satellite of the European Space Agency (ESA). In order to achieve this goal it is crucial to develop new instrumentation for the QUIJOTE experiment which allows it to extend its present frequency range and increase its sensitivity. Special emphasis will be put in the detection of the primordial gravitational wave background (GWB) produced during that early period of the universe, with the goal of reducing the uncertainty of the r parameter (related to the amplitude of those waves) in about an order of magnitude with respect to present upper limits. The GWB leaves an unambiguous imprint in the B-mode CMB polarization anisotropies. Its detection will represent a unique confirmation of inflation and will provide the energy scale at which it happened. The energy scales that will be probed are of the order of or larger than those corresponding to the Grand Unified Theories (GUT) of the fundamental interactions, at least 12 orders of magnitude larger than the ones reachable by present accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. Many models of inflation will be severely constrained/characterized by the data expected from those very sensitive experiments.