Physicists Create 3D Printable Map of the Oldest Light in the Universe

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iclOne of primary obstacles standing in the way of innovation in the 3D printing industry is limitations in production size. Though this is still an issue for many applications here on planet Earth, it hasn’t stopped researchers from utilizing additive manufacturing to explore the endless confines of our universe. In the recent past, 3D printing technology has been used to both study and map out the infinite cosmos surrounding us.

Now, a group of researchers from Imperial London College have managed to create a 3D printable cosmic microwave background (CMB), which is a prominent glow that the universe has in the microwave range that maps out the oldest light in all of the universe. This CMB was imprinted when the universe went from an opaque fog of plasma and radiation to transparent, which was approximately just 380,000 years into its current 13.8 billion-year history.

This CMB map has become even more detailed thanks to the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite, which has helped inform astronomers more about the early universe and how it came to formation. But, these increasingly detailed maps are extremely difficult to view and explore, which has led astrophysicist Dr. Dave Clements, a professor at the Imperial College London Department of Physics, to start a project to accurately represent this CMB with 3D printing.

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The 3D printed representation of the cosmic microwave background (CMB)

“Presenting the CMB in a truly 3D form, that can be held in the hand and felt rather than viewed, has many potential benefits for teaching and outreach work, and is especially relevant for those with a visual disability,” said Dr. Clements. “Differences in the temperature of the CMB relate to different densities, and it is these that spawned the formation of structure in the universe – including galaxies, galaxy clusters and superclusters.”

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The 3D printed CMB being created on an Ultimaker 2+

By representing these differences in temperature with bumps and dips on a spherical surface, the research team has enabled a great appreciation for how the early universe was structured. For instance, the renowned “CMB cold spot” which is a region in the CMB with particularly low temperatures, can be felt on the 3D printed replica as a small and isolated depression.

This research project was initiated by Dr. Clements and included assistance by two final-year undergraduate students. A paper on their unique 3D mapping and printing process, entitled “Cosmic sculpture: a new way to visualise the cosmic microwave background”, has recently been published in the European Journal of Physics. They’ve also created two file types for their CMB 3D model, one for simple single-color 3D printing, and another that represents the differences of temperature in multiple colors as well as bumps and dips. You can download both files of the CMB for free, giving you access to a historical moment that first took place over 13 billion years ago. Discuss in the 3D Printed Universe forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source: Imperial College London]

 

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