Imperial College London


Faculty of Natural SciencesDepartment of Physics

Professor of Experimental Astrophysics



+44 (0)20 7594 7552t.sumner




1108Blackett LaboratorySouth Kensington Campus





Currently active research areas include:-

The ZEPLIN-III dark matter search experiment based in the underground Boulby mine laboratory in the UK.  As a founder member of the UKDMC I have been involved in a number of dark matter search experiments looking to test the hypothesis that the dark matter thought to be associated with our galaxy is in the form of a new particle species which might be detectable as very rare events in specialised well shielded low-activity experiments.  ZEPLIN-III is the last of these UK-led experiments using the most advanced xenon based technology.  I intitiated this experiment in 2000 and led it as PI and Spokesperson until 2010. 

The search for gravitational waves using a space-based observatory called LISA.  This involves carrying out interferometry between proof-masses contained in separated spacecraft and provides access to a wealth of astrophysics and fundamental tests of General Relativity which cannot be done in any other way.  A successful mission would revolutionise our ability to study the universe.  I have been a member of the LIST (LISA International Science Team) appointed by ESA since its inception.  My group has just delivered flight hardware  for the LISA Pathfinder technology demonstrator due to be launched by ESA in 2013.

The pursuit of fundmental physics measurements at the interface of gravity and quantujm mechanics using space missions.  I am Co-PI for the STEP proposal to carry out an equivalence principle measurement with unprecedented sensitivity.  I led the GAUGE proposal to ESA. 


ELAIS (1997 - 2002), Imperial College London, SISSA Italy, SA Saclay, OA Padova, MPI Garching, NOA Athens, IfA Edinburgh, IoA Cambridge, DSRI Copenhagen, IdA Tenerife, IdF Cantabria Santander, MPI Heidelberg, IA Paris, IAS Orsay, Leiden University, Cardiff University, OA Bologna, Infra-red observational astronomy using the ISO satellite, 1997 - 2002

STEP (1989 - Present), Stanford University, Imperial College London, STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, University of Birmingham, University of Strathclyde, University of Jena, ZARM Bremen, IHES France, University of Trento, JPL, PSI Zurich, ONERA Chatillon, PTB, Satellite Test of the Equivalence Principle to 1 part in 10(18). European PI., 1989

UKDMC (1987-2003), University of Edinburgh, University of Sheffield, STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Imperial College London, ITEP-Moscow, LIP-Coimbra, Occidental, Texas A&M, UCLA, University of Rochester., Direct dark matter searches at the Boulby mine. Projects inclduing NaI, NAIAD, DRIFT, and ZEPLIN-I, ZEPLIN-II., 1987 - 2003

SN1987A (1987-1989), University New South Wales, IAS Frascati, University of Tubingen, Imperial College, Case Western Reserve University, High-energy gamma-ray (50-1000MeV) observations of SN1987A using a balloon-borne instrument., 1987 - 1989

ROSAT UK WFC (1984-1990), University of Leicester, University of Birmingham, Mullard Space Science Laboratory, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, RGO Cambridge, Imperial College, Flight Hardware for the ROSAT soft x-ray camera., 1984 - 1990

ASTROD (2003 - 2011), IAS Orsay, Caltech, University of Birmingham, ZARM Bremen, ONERA Chatillon, NPL Teddington, Technical University Dresden, University of Missouri, IEEC Barcelona, Nanjing University, Purple Mountain Observatory, Imperial College London, University of Western Australia, Humbolt University Berlin, Leibniz University, A space mission to test general relativity

LISA (1991 - 2011), University of Hanover, University of Colorado, APC Paris, University of Padova, University of Birmingham, University of Glasgow, University of Zurich, ICE Barcelona, IAP Paris, AEI Potsdam, Imperial College London, OCA Nice, University ot Trento, ESTEC, JPL, Stanford University, GSFC, Montana State University, Penn State University, University of Washington, MIT, Lick Observatory, Caltech, University of Michigan, The Observation of gravitational waves using a space instrument. A tool for astrophysics, cosmology and fundamental physics

ZEPLIN-III (2003 - 2011), Imperial College London, STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, University of Edinburgh, LIP-Coimbra, ITEP Moscow, Direct dark matter search using an advanced two-phase xenon time projection chamber detector. PI and Spokesperson from initiation until 2010.

LISA Pathfinder (2004 - Present), University of Trento, ESAC, AEI Hannover, APC Paris, CNES, ESTEC, IFAE Barcelona, University of Birmingham, University of Glasgow, Imperial College London, University of Zurich, ESOC, EADS Astrium, A technology demonstration satellite to be launched by ESA. ICL is providing flight hardware.

Research Staff









Research Student Supervision

Davidge,DCR, Development of a Two Phase Xenon Detector for Use in Direct Dark Matter Searches

Dawson,JV, ZEPLIN-III: A Two-Phase Xenon WIMP Detector

Grant,SM, GaAs as a detector for dark matter particles and x-rays

Hollington,D, Charge Management System for LISA and LISAPF

Keeble,OGS, Large Scale Structure and the PSC-z Survey

Khan,SA, 350um observations with SHARK2

Shaul,DNA, Searching for WIMPs and axion-like particles

Tang,C-J, Detecting Cosmic Gravitational-wave Background with LISA

Thorne,C, ZEPLIN-III Comissioning and First Science Run Results

Wass,PJ, The charged particle space environment as a noise source for LISA and LISAPF