Quantum 'compass' could allow navigation without relying on satellites

phys.org | 11/9/2018 | Staff
EGFZE (Posted by) Level 3
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The UK's first quantum accelerometer for navigation has been demonstrated by a team from Imperial College London and M Squared.

Most navigation today relies on a global navigation satellite system (GNSS), such as GPS, which sends and receives signals from satellites orbiting the Earth. The quantum accelerometer is a self-contained system that does not rely on any external signals.

Signals - Blockages - Buildings - Navigation - Day

This is particularly important because satellite signals can become unavailable due to blockages such as tall buildings, or can be jammed, imitated or denied – preventing accurate navigation. One day of denial of the satellite service would cost the UK £1 billion.

Now, for the first time, a UK team has demonstrated a transportable, standalone quantum accelerometer at the National Quantum Technologies Showcase, an event demonstrating the technological progress arising from the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme – a £270m UK Government investment over five years.

Device - Imperial - College - London - M

The device, built by Imperial College London and M Squared, was funded through the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory's Future Sensing and Situational Awareness Programme, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and Innovate UK. It represents the UK's first commercially viable quantum accelerometer, which could be used for navigation.

Accelerometers measure how an object's velocity changes over time. With this, and the starting point of the object, the new position can be calculated.

Accelerometers - Time - Today - Technologies - Phones

Accelerometers have existed for some time, and are present today in technologies like mobile phones and laptops. However, these devices cannot maintain their accuracy over longer periods without an external reference.

The quantum accelerometer relies on the precision and accuracy possible by measuring properties of supercool atoms. At extremely low temperatures, the atoms behave in a 'quantum' way, acting like both matter and waves.

Dr - Joseph - Cotter - Centre - Cold

Dr. Joseph Cotter, from the Centre for Cold Matter at Imperial, said: "When the atoms are ultra-cold we have to use quantum mechanics to describe...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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