DIFFRACT - Integrated Distributed Feedback Lasers for Cold Atom Technologies

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Engineering


This Innovate UK project is aimed at developing compact DFB lasers at 780.24 nm that are locked using a MEMS Rb cavity and an interferometer to an atomic transition in 87Rb atoms. The system is the basis for atomic clocks, inertial sensors, rotation sensors, quantum navigators, magnetometers and electrometers. The project pulls together the University of Glasgow and the University of Birmingham with the UK companies M Squared Lasers, Kelvin Nanotechnology and Optocap to build a UK supply chain for miniature lasers systems for practical and portable cold atom systems. The technology being developed can also be used for chip scale cold atom systems that ultimately could be in ever mobile phone.

Planned Impact

Economic: The project outcomes will support the establishment of an entirely new industry over the next decade with major economic benefits up- and downstream. To calibrate the external economic benefits we can evaluate the impact along the value chains that will emerge from the project. The supply chains for the M Squared Lasers (MSL), Kelvin Nanotechnology (KNT) & Optocap's operations, including raw material, components & electronics will see an additional ~5 jobs created upstream from the partners over 5 years, around 90% of which are UK-based. The current QT supply network is necessarily global with specialised foreign vendors delivery high specification components to the community. The establishment of a strong UK supply chain in this area will bring much of these activities on shore as highly integrated systems based on components from preferred local suppliers will drive efficiency in the value chain. Within the consortium, where most value is being added, an expected 8 jobs at MSL will be created in the first 5 years, with a further 2 jobs at KNT and 1 at OPT. Downstream value creation will begin with research usage but soon gain wider reach as the DFBs are deployed in integrated sensing systems, both military and civilian. The applicability of low-cost inertial measurement and timing hardware to navigation systems has the potential to deliver major benefits for transport infrastructure of all types, with penetration increasing in inverse proportion to the overall costs.
Social: There are a number of social benefits that cold atom technologies will enable over the next decades. High sensitivity electromagentic sensors will deliver a step change in medical diagnostic capabilities. Imaging techniques with cellular resolution is a short-medium term development goal that will benefit from compact automated laser hardware. With multiple DFB units required for each device and a potential deployment in all major healthcare centres, the scale of opportunity and relevance of this project are significant. As the denial of GPS has been predicted to cost the UK tax payer 8% of UK GDP overnight, the development of a robust and resilient navigation system that does not rely on GPS will aid the security of the UK and make the economy more resilient to terrorist or criminal attacks.
Environmental: There will be groundbreaking advances in earth observation, particularly in the measurement of water distribution, where monitoring of the water table can be crucial in parts of the world where water shortages are prevalent or where unregulated private bore-holes affect the local water table. The impact of natural disasters can be mitigated through improved monitoring of flood alerts and also seismic activity for geological movement and earthquake, volcano and tsunami predictions. In 2011, the Tohoku earthquake resulted in 20,000 deaths and massive economic losses. Estimated cost for the clean up operation in Fukusima Daiici is expected to exceed $250bn.
Description We have developed a silicon nitride micro rings for 780 nm operation of Rb cold atom systems.
Exploitation Route We are translating the technology to Kelvin Nanotechnology and M Squared Lasers.
Sectors Electronics,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

URL http://none.com
Description The project has transferred DFB lasers, micro rings and know how to Kelvin Nanotechnology and M Squared Lasers. New results are being evaluated for IP projection before publications will be written and submitted.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Electronics,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Economic

Description Cabinet Office: Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
URL https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/scientific-advisory-group-for-emergencies-sage
Description DSTL Quantum Radar Meeting
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
Impact This DSTL workshop worked out the benefits and risks of quantum radar and what research work the UK may undertake in this space.
Description MOD Defence Science Expert Committee
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact I have been advising on UK national security at a senior level (Chief Scientific Advisory) in MOD.
Description Prof Douglas Paul is a Member of the EPSRC Capital Infrastructure Strategic Advisory Team
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact Most of the work has been setting EPSRC policy on capital and infrastructure but also providing input to the UKRI capital roadmap.
URL https://epsrc.ukri.org/research/ourportfolio/themes/researchinfrastructure/strategy/sat/
Description Prof Douglas Paul is a Member of the MOD Defence Science Expert Committee
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact As this work is related to UK national security it is not possible to state impacts in the public domain.
Description Prof Douglas Paul is a member of the panel undertaking the MOD rf Sensing Review
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact national security review
Description Prof Douglas Paul is chairing the MOD Deep Dive Review of Position, Navigation and Timing
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact National security work
Description Prof Douglas Paul represented MOD at the Future Position Navigation and Timing Technology Cooperation Programme meeting in the USA
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
Impact national security programme on future position, navigation and timing with UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia
URL https://www.acq.osd.mil/ttcp/
Description Bid for new Electron-Beam Lithography Tool
Amount £2,000,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P030459/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2017 
End 06/2019
Description Meeting with US DoD representative on secondment to the MOD 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This was a meeting with the US DoD representative to MOD who was interested to see the quantum technology work at Glasgow. This meeting was arranged by the Government Office of Science.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017