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Quantum Sensing

Quantum Sensing

What is Quantum Sensing

Sensing is the detection and measurement of quantities or changes in quantities of chemical compositions, light, motion, pressure, sound, and temperature. The wide-ranging applications include healthcare, navigation, and scientific research, as well as various applications of industrial interest. The accuracy of the measurements is crucial to performing analyses, which influence the corresponding responses to the detections.

Unfortunately, existing sensing technology is too limited for some of these applications. But for those applications, fortunately, novel quantum sensing technology offers unprecedented accuracy and precision in detections and measurements.

Quantum sensors leverage the principles of quantum mechanics, with different sensors leveraging different principles. Photonic sensors, for example, leverage quantum entanglement, single photons, and squeezed states, and are often used to measure electromagnetism and detect vibration. Solid-state sensors, for another example, leverage quantized energy levels and quantum coherence to detect a stimulus or measure quantities. Other quantum sensors leverage quantum interference or other quantum mechanical principles.

As a quantum technology, advancements in quantum sensors can impact other quantum technologies, and vice versa. A neutral atom quantum sensor module, for example, and a neutral atom quantum computer trap – a magneto-optical trap, or MOT – are both ultrahigh vacuum chambers with clouds of atomic vapors. Both technologies apply focused laser beams to these clouds.

One of the advantages of using neutral atoms is scalability. Whether for quantum sensing or quantum computation, one chamber can hold hundreds or thousands of individual atoms. Atoms also have relatively long coherence times, which allows more time for measuring or computing. Atoms even have potential as the nodes in quantum networks, yet a third quantum technology.

Some of the applications of neutral atom technology – covering quantum sensing, quantum communication, and quantum computing – include:

  • Cardiovascular disease diagnosis
  • Computation
  • Distributed/blind quantum computing
  • Electric vehicle performance
  • Electrical power distribution
  • Energy consumption optimization
  • Fossil energy exploration and extraction
  • Geothermal reservoir monitoring
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) quality
  • Metabolism monitoring
  • Quantum networks
  • Networks of quantum sensors and atomic clocks
  • Nuclear energy and nuclear waste management
  • Renewable energy monitoring and optimization

For more information on the applications of neutral atom technology beyond quantum sensing, be sure to check out “Key Advantages of Neutral-atom Quantum Computer Architectures” and “Understanding the Potential of Commercial Quantum Computers.

The Core Principles of Quantum Sensing

Quantum sensors operate on the principles of quantum mechanics. The principles that have been referenced thus far include, but are not limited to:

  • Quantized energy levels – like a foot on the rungs of a ladder, quantum systems have discrete energy levels that they cannot be in between
  • Quantum coherence – the measure of how long a quantum state can remain excited, which is the duration available to perform measurements or computation
  • Quantum entanglement – two or more quantum systems become one quantum system with correlations and anti-correlations affecting its components regardless of distance
  • Quantum interference – the wavelike nature of quantum particles allows waves to constructively add together or destructively cancel one another
  • Single photons – individual energy packets
  • Squeezed states – minimizes uncertainty in one property at the expense of another

Again, other quantum sensors might leverage other quantum mechanical principles. After all, there are quite a few modalities that are used as quantum sensors, and they tend to focus on specific types of applications.

Applications of Quantum Sensing

Quantum sensing applications includes all the sensing applications that require greater accuracy than is afforded by current technology. Not all sensing applications necessarily need the greater accuracy, but quantum sensing is the solution for those that do. Just a few biomedical, energy & infrastructure, environmental, navigation & positioning, and other examples include:

  • Automate systems
  • Clinical magnetoencephalography (MEG)
  • Communications
  • Environmental monitoring
  • Gravitational measurements
  • Magnetometers
  • Mapping underground structures
  • Metabolomics
  • Microscopy
  • Mineral prospecting
  • Minimize industrial waste
  • Navigation
  • Optimize electrical grids and power delivery
  • Positioning
  • Preventative infrastructure maintenance
  • Seismology
  • Single-neuron analysis
  • Temperature-dependent cellular processes
  • Timing

For more about the uses of quantum sensors and the types of companies that use them, check out “What is Quantum Sensing?” by BAE Systems. Another option is “Quantum Sensors in ‘24: Best 8 Use Cases & Case Studies” by AIMultiple; this article includes a three-minute video explainer, some of the benefits of using quantum sensors, the seven types of quantum sensors, eight use cases, and links to further information.

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