Translation and Networking

The primary aim of the Translation and Networking work package is to build links between universities and industry to make sure that quantum sensors move from the laboratory to become real products.

This is being achieved through

  • identifying industries which have products that can benefit from quantum sensors
  • raising awareness amongst engineers and scientists in industry on what state-of-the-art quantum sensors can deliver through workshops and other events
  • creating practical examples (demonstrators) of systems that incorporate the next generation of quantum sensors and which are relevant to the needs of industry or the final users

We are working to build an informed community of users to whom we’re demonstrating the relevance of quantum sensors.

Drawing of a portable ultra-precise optical clock

Drawing of a portable ultra-precise optical clock

Market Opportunities for Rydberg Based GHz to THz Sensors

In 2016, we issues a call for new academic collaborations with academic groups whose research aligns with and complements the activities and capabilities of hub partners. In August 2016, we provided a grant to Kevin Weatherill at Durham University so that they could develop a better understanding of the market opportunities for Rydberg atom sensor technologies.

Weatherill commissioned M Squared, a photonics and quantum technology company, to carry out a market review. The report was completed in March 2017. Please find below an executive summary plus a download link to the full report.

Executive Summary

Terahertz radiation presents a myriad of opportunities for sensing and imaging. Many envisaged THz applications arise from the fact that specific rotations, vibrations or librations of molecules and molecular aggregates occur in this frequency range.

THz radiation can: pass through many materials that are opaque in the visible region (e.g. clothing, plastics and paper), allow the spectroscopic distinction of liquids and solids such as explosives, drugs and biomolecules, monitor spatial distributions of chemicals and pharmaceutical active ingredients, and identify defects by strong scattering conditions. Furthermore, THz radiation is non-ionizing and safe in comparison to x-rays. These sensing and imaging attributes enables a large variety of applications for the hyperspectral detection and identification of molecules in diverse areas.

Examples of the main application areas of THz imaging currently include:

  • Stand-off detection of hidden objects and weapons
  • Non-invasive medical and dental diagnostics
  • Detection of cracks and defects in materials
  • Non-destructive rapid fault isolation in integrated circuit packages
  • Drug discovery and formulation analysis of coatings and cores
  • Non-contact imaging for conservation of paintings, !manuscripts and artefacts
  • Monitoring of crop and plant hydration levels

The terahertz region of the electromagnetic spectrum sits between the well exploited optical and radio wavelengths; beyond the long-wave infrared, yet shorter than the sub-millimetre wave band. The technology in this spectral region (Generally defined as being between 0.3-10 THz) is significantly less well advanced than for the optical and radio bands, leading to what has become known as the ‘terahertz gap’. Despite research and development in this area of high potential since the 1960’s, the source and detector technology required for effective implementation has remained frustratingly complex, expensive, impractical, and ultimately lacking the necessary performance.

Rydberg methods presented here offer an opportunity to harness this spectral region in a simple
method that offers direct spectrally resolved THz imaging and field measurements traceable to SI

Download the full report (pdf)

Next steps

Based upon this report, our Application and Technology Exploitation Panel invited Durham to submit an application for further funding in this area, and Kevin Weatherill’s proposal was approved for funding. We have now agreed, subject to contract, to fund the development of a very sensitive microwave and terahertz (THz) detector using Rydberg atoms.