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Your location: Home > Related Articles > Sandia National Laboratory has developed a quantum sensing navigation device that does not rely on GPS

Sandia National Laboratory has developed a quantum sensing navigation device that does not rely on GPS

Author:QINSUN Released in:2024-03 Click:23

A compact device designed and manufactured by Sandia National Laboratory may become a key component of the next generation navigation system. For over a year, this avocado sized vacuum chamber has contained a cluster of atoms under suitable conditions for precise navigation measurements. Peter Schwindt, a scientist at Sandia National Laboratory, said that this is the first device that is small enough, energy-efficient, and reliable, potentially pushing quantum sensors - sensors that utilize quantum mechanical properties superior to traditional technologies - from the laboratory to commercial use.

As the core technology of future navigation systems that do not rely on GPS satellites. Earlier this year, AVS Quantum Science magazine described it. Countless devices around the world use GPS to find their way. This is possible because atomic clocks, known for their extremely precise timing, can fully synchronize satellite networks. But GPS signals can be interfered with or deceived, which could potentially render navigation systems of commercial and military vehicles ineffective, Schwindt said.

Therefore, Schwindt said that future vehicles may track their own position instead of relying on satellites. They can achieve this through precise onboard devices like atomic clocks, but these devices measure acceleration and rotation by shining lasers into small rubidium gas clouds, just like those included in Sandia.

Atomic accelerometers and gyroscopes already exist, but they are too bulky and power consuming to be used in aircraft navigation systems. This is because they require a large vacuum system to work, which requires thousands of volts of electricity.

"Quantum sensors are a growing field, and you can showcase many applications in the laboratory, but when you move it to the real world, there are many problems you must solve. The two problems are making sensors compact and sturdy. Physics occurs within a volume of one cubic centimeter (0.06 cubic inches), so anything larger than this volume is a waste of space," said Bethany Little, a postdoctoral scientist at Sandia

Litter said that her team has shown that quantum induction can work without high-power vacuum systems. This will shrink the packaging to a practical size without sacrificing reliability.

Instead, a pair of devices called "harvesters" use chemical reactions to restrain intruders, rather than a powered vacuum pump, as the vacuum pump will blow away leaked molecules and disrupt measurements. Each harvester is about the same size as a pencil eraser, so they can be stuffed into two narrow tubes protruding from the titanium alloy packaging. They can also work without a power source.

In order to further block pollutants, Schwindt collaborated with Sandia materials scientists to build this chamber using titanium and sapphire. These materials are particularly outstanding in blocking gases like helium, as helium easily crushes stainless steel and Pyrex glass. The equipment was built using complex manufacturing techniques honed by Sandia to bond cutting-edge materials for nuclear weapon components. Like nuclear weapons, titanium chambers must work reliably for many years.

The Sandia team is continuing to monitor the device. Their goal is to seal and operate it for five years, which is an important milestone indicating that the technology is ready for use. Meanwhile, they are exploring methods for streamlining manufacturing.

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