Our Key Projects
Commercialisation of Quantum
Working in partnership with the University of Birmingham, RSK, and Gooch and Housego, project REVEAL concerns a quantum gravimeter for subterranean surveying in civil engineering applications will be designed and constructed.
Signal processing algorithms and workflow stream-mapping for using the quantum gravimeter and exploiting its complete surveying potential will be explored.
The presence of sinkholes, mineshafts and other buried objects under construction sites is a huge problem in civil engineering. These underground openings are a risk to the health and safety of people working on the site. They are also a risk after construction work has been completed as they can move and increase in size over time and may open up causing a building; a road or a bridge to subside or collapse with devastating effect.
The REVEAL project aims to develop a quantum gravimeter which can be used for subterranean surveying to identify these underground objects before construction takes place. This reduces the risk for people working on the site and allows remedial work to be carried out before building takes place, decreasing the risk of future structural problems.
REVEAL aims to produce an instrument that improves on existing gravimeters so that even smaller and deeper holes in the ground can be detected.
Quantum sensors are less prone to drift over time which should dramatically speed up survey time and facilitate commercial operations.
This will result in surveys which can identify smaller and deeper objects, such as boreholes and pre-industrial revolution mine shafts, and will be the first demonstration of a quantum gravimeter by a commercially led consortium in the UK.
New developments in quantum technology have resulted in the ability to cool atoms close to absolute zero using lasers. At these temperatures, laboratory experiments have shown that these “cold atoms” can be used as ultra-sensitive sensors for measuring gravity.
CASPA will translate leading UK science into commercial products for space and other markets. It will take the technology out of the laboratory and build it into a small satellite payload that is capable of producing “cold atoms” in space.
This technology is already on the European Space Agency’s (ESA) key technology roadmap and in its envisioned future missions. Crucially CASPA will address the technology maturity gap that is preventing this technology from being selected.
Working with our partners: University of Birmingham, Clyde Space, Covesion, Gooch and Housego, University of Southampton, and XCAM, we will enable the systems engineering and subsystem development necessary to deliver a pre-flight payload in an autonomous, compact, low power consumption form factor that could be flown on a CubeSat. Demonstrating this new technology in space is a vital first step towards realising real instruments that are capable of mapping tiny changes in the strength of gravity across the surface of the earth.
The extreme sensitivity brought by “cold atom” sensors will provide the ability to finely monitor the movement of mass within Earth systems. This has multiple applications including more accurate monitoring of changes in polar ice mass, ocean currents and sea level.
Higher resolution data will lead to the ability to monitor smaller water sources and discover new underground natural resources which are currently not detectable.
Similar technology will also be used for deep space navigation and for providing higher precision timing sources in space.
Find out more about the cold atom trap in the technical paper, Gravity Sensing: Cold Atom Trap Onboard a 6U CubeSat
The precise measurement of time is fundamental to the effective functioning of the services we take for granted in modern society.
In the MINAC project, we have partnered with National Physical Laboratory to develop a pre-production prototype of a miniature atomic clock for precise timing in a variety of essential services such as reliable energy supply, safe transport links, mobile communications, data networks and electronic financial transactions.
Today, these services rely on GPS for a timing signal which is easily disrupted either accidentally or maliciously. In prolonged GPS unavailability, these services stop functioning.
The reliance on GPS for precision timing and the consequent vulnerability of our essential services was made clear in a report from the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2011.
That message is becoming more widely known and it is creating a demand for timing solutions that are not GPS dependent.
The miniature atomic clock arising from this project aims to provide a solution and could be utilised across widespread applications in precision timing for mobile base stations, network servers for financial services, data centres, national power distribution networks and air traffic control systems.
We will develop an industry pre-production model caesium atomic clock to provide timing synchronisation and holdover for application to mobile communications in GNSS-denied situations, and 5G communications base stations. The output of MINAC will address civil and military applications enabling a technical and economic success for the UK.