We survey the prospective sensitivities of terrestrial and space-borne atom interferometers to gravitational waves generated by cosmological and astrophysical sources, and to ultralight dark matter. We discuss the backgrounds from gravitational gradient noise in terrestrial detectors, and also binary pulsar and asteroid backgrounds in space-borne detectors. We compare the sensitivities of LIGO and LISA with those of the 100 m and 1 km stages of the AION terrestrial AI project, as well as two options for the proposed AEDGE AI space mission with cold atom clouds either inside or outside the spacecraft, considering as possible sources the mergers of black holes and neutron stars, supernovae, phase transitions in the early Universe, cosmic strings and quantum fluctuations in the early Universe that could have generated primordial black holes. We also review the capabilities of AION and AEDGE for detecting coherent waves of ultralight scalar dark matter. AION-REPORT/2021-04 KCL-PH-TH/2021-61, CERN-TH-2021-116 This article is part of the theme issue 'Quantum technologies in particle physics'.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20210060
JournalPhilosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences
Issue number2216
Early online date20 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2022


  • atom interferometers
  • binary mergers
  • dark matter
  • early universe
  • gravitational waves
  • supernovae


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