Gravity Sensors

Gravity, or the gravitational field, is directly affected by mass. Any changes in mass causes variations in the gravitational field. The impact of any change is extremely small and so detecting it can be challenging.

Using quantum technologies, academics are improving signal detection sensitivity and making compact instruments that are resistant to noise, drift and constant recalibration.

There are significant benefits to the UK economy, for both companies that use gravity sensors and those in the supply chain that build them. Developments in this area will drive efficiency, innovation and show real economic benefits.

Quantum gravity sensor

Quantum gravity sensor

Potential applications

  • Detection of sinkholes
  • Location and assessment of infrastructure (pipes, water)
  • Detecting cavities before subsidence happens
  • Surveying for disused mineshafts
  • Mineral exploration and extraction
  • Water resource management and planning
  • Satellite climate change monitoring
  • Earth observation
  • Flood prevention planning
  • Navigation
  • Archaeology
  • Border control and security

We aim to create real demonstrators for quantum technology in the form of portable cold atom based gravity sensors.

Key objectives

Our key objectives are:

  • to develop an absolute gravity sensor for use in metrology applications, with the long term aim of the device forming part of a Watt balance at the National Physical Laboratory
  • to develop compact absolute gravity sensor units which can be configured into arrays, allowing construction of compact gradiometers or even measurement of higher order terms.

To achieve these goals we will be working closely with other prototyping activities by integrating their developed technology into our demonstrators. We are creating a Technology Transfer Centre to bring together people with a variety of expertise and backgrounds, establishing a creative and productive atmosphere and ensuring seamless integration and optimisation of the new technology. The centre will be provided with test-bed gravity sensors which can be used to assess new technologies and their effects.

Our early goals are to take gravity sensor devices out into the working environment, for example taking a portable gradiometer into the field to demonstrate applications in underground detection, and carry out detailed comparisons with state-of-the art existing commercial devices. Achieving these goals will show potential end-users what they can expect from quantum technology.