Science and innovation

The underpinning technology: cold atoms

When cooled to temperatures near absolute zero, atoms unveil their wave-like nature and quantum mechanical laws replace those of classical mechanics. By using finely controlled lasers and magnetic fields, scientists are able to cool small ensembles of atoms down to the lowest temperatures in the universe – just a few billionths of a degree above absolute zero. We use the quantum mechanical nature of the atom to employ the superposition principle, making exceptional sensors which offer a vast number of advantages.

Physicists and Engineers at the UK National Quantum Technology Hub for Sensors and Metrology are using their knowledge of cold atoms science to realise real-world applications like ultra-precise atomic clocks and interferometers and ‘gravitational cameras’ which can unveil the underworld. We are increasing the readiness of the sensors, demonstrating their ‘lab to application’ benefits. We work alongside end-users to understand their needs, and also with industry to identify the potential benefits of quantum, and to develop a UK supply chain.

Work packages

The Quantum Technology Hub for Sensors and Metrology encompasses twelve work packages:


Supply Chain Technologies

Market Building