Gravity Platform

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: School of Physics and Astronomy

Abstract

The opportunity that this project addresses is the use of quantum based gravity sensors to detect buried assets or structures. It combines three streams of challenges currently faced for the development of such sensor: Gathering of real field data, development of a sensor platform for data gathering in realistic terrain conditions and the quantum technologies knowledge transfer from academia to industry. Larger market opportunities have been identified which require the sensor to be mounted on a more specialist platform to give accurate tilt alignment and vibration damping. This platform will realise faster measurement times in the civil engineering market and operation in difficult terrain such as agricultural fields for soil compaction measurements. Reveal identified the civil engineering market as the first viable market for QT gravity sensors. Though the capabilities of a QT gravity instrument will bring a great improvement in the detectability of assets and structures in the ground, this market is very price sensitive. Currently the costs of a survey are dominated by personnel time rather than the instrument cost and this is driven by the total time of each survey. This project will reduce set-up time at each measurement location by the development of a specialist platform. Additionally further markets, such as mine shaft detection, Canal & Reservoir embankments, precision agriculture and defence applications, have been identified to expand the market. All these sectors have varying terrain requirements and a QT gravity sensor will only have the ability to fully penetrate these markets with a tailored platform.

An additional need this project addresses is the crucial feedback of information gathered from on-site trials of QT gravity sensors under realistic conditions. The current programs at University of Birmingham and Teledyne e2v are currently constrained by the limited number of operational instruments. These sensors are desperately required for on-site trials and external demonstrations by partners, such as RSK, a civil engineering company, but at the same time are required by the development teams to continue improvements towards increasing the measurement sensitivity. The sensor and platform developed in this project will incorporate the current development status of the sensor, but will be aimed at increasing instrument availability for site trials, demonstrations and showcases to drive dissemination and market pull.
As the QT sensor development is a very new activity for industry, experts in this field are rare. This project will co-locate up to two Teledyne e2v employees at the University of Birmingham Technology Transfer Centre. During and after this project it will bring the much required domain knowledge to Teledyne e2v.

Planned Impact

The project will create benefits for a number of users:

Benefits to Industry:
Quantum technology has the potential to demonstrate performance gains for a wide range of applications, such as defence (navigation, tunnel detection, battlefield imaging), geophysics (oil prospecting, void / feature detection, utility mapping), civil engineering (infrastructure mapping) etc. Many of these are enhanced through reduced measurement time or increasing operational capability through the ability to operate on numerous platforms (for example airborne for oil prospecting, and ground based for oil field monitoring or effective extraction). In the long term such systems will deliver highly disruptive solutions that: i) lead to the creation of new markets; ii) satisfy currently un-met user needs; or iii) achieve performance gains far beyond existing solutions. A particular focus of the project will be reducing survey time through addressing barriers to mobile platform operation. The consortium will engage with potential national, European and international end-users to: i) inform them about the features of gravity sensors and techniques for increasing their readiness; ii) to explore potential end-use applications; and iii) to define a roadmap for take up and use. Early applications are anticipated for ground based survey where an automated move-stop-measure capability would drastically reduce survey cost, enhance existing market potential and open new opportunities.

Benefits to Society:
Quantum technology is a disruptive technology with the potential to create new markets and business growth, leading to UK employment, economic growth and wealth creation. The project represents an important step towards the development of a key component / platform technology that will enable the realisation of these benefits / impacts. The target final application for the project results are within the domain of gravity sensors based on cold atoms. Such sensors demonstrate a wide range of benefits for society including: more accurate interventions in civil engineering resulting in reduced road congestion and reduced project cost; increased productivity in national infrastructure projects such as HS2 through better detection of mines and natural underground or ground related hazards; better and more widespread monitoring of national infrastructure such as roads and rail lines through remote sensing of developing hazards, allowing intervention prior to serious distruption (cf Forest Hill sinkhole, London 2016); better use of underground space in urban environments; reduced dependence on GPS through gravity mapping for navigation. Such benefits / impacts align with numerous National policy priorities, such as security, smart cities and transport etc.

Publications

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Hinton A (2017) A portable magneto-optical trap with prospects for atom interferometry in civil engineering. in Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences

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Hinton A (2017) A portable magneto-optical trap with prospects for atom interferometry in civil engineering. in Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences

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Rammeloo C (2020) Performance of an optical single-sideband laser system for atom interferometry in Journal of the Optical Society of America B

 
Description The project was focused on collaborating with UK industry to make initial steps in understanding the challenges associated with operation of cold atoms based quantum sensors on moving platforms, such as trains or ships - for applications such as monitoring rail embankments or gravity gradient mapping as an alternative navigation system input. The work at the University of Birmingham focused upon understanding the challenges involved with operating on a moving platform, building a test system to enable future testing of academic and industry devices, and undertaking knowledge transfer on laser systems for atom interferometry.

The main aims of the University of Birmingham in the project were the development of the test system and the development of a laser system for knowledge transfer to the industry collaborator. The test system that was realised is a linear actuator which can be used to install a cold atom interferometry based gravity gradiometer and apply controlled velocity and acceleration profiles. This is now being used in the UK Quantum Technology Hub in Sensors and Timing to enable controlled experimental testing of techniques for reducing the impact of platform motion on the atom interferometer output. The laser system developments have enabled knowledge transfer to industry that has enabled them to undertake their own laser developments within the follow-on project Gravity Pioneer, in which the consortium are now developing an industry prototype gravity gradiometer.

In addition to these outputs, the project has enabled discussion with UK industry end users and government stakeholders during visits to the Quantum Technology Hub and events such as the National Quantum Technology Showcase. This has enabled a stronger understanding of end user needs and challenges involved in operation on moving platforms, and has contributed to the development of road maps for quantum sensing within the Quantum Technology Hub.
Exploitation Route The outcomes of the project are now being used by ourselves and collaborators within follow on projects. The linear actuator test system is currently being used to begin testing of atom interferometers on moving platforms, so as to address some of the initial challenges for such applications. Through the work in this and other projects the transition of quantum sensors from "static" to "moving" has become the key area of focus for the quantum gravity gradiometry work.The knowledge transfer realised to industry has enabled them to undertake further development within the Gravity Pioneer project, where the consortium is working towards a first UK industry prototype

In addition, the outcomes may be taken forward by other industry and academic researchers developing quantum technology systems. For the laser systems, this is relevant to people working in cold atoms and using rubidium - which encompasses numerous research activities, in addition to clocks, gravimeters and accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers. For the test system, we are engaging with the community through the hub and are open to this being used for testing. The results of our own testing will of relevance and use to other researchers aiming at transitioning quantum sensors towards operation on moving platforms.

Ultimately, through the outcomes of the project, in conjunction with ongoing collaborative projects, our objective is that the outcomes are relevant to a broad range of users and developers who that require quantum sensors to be operated on moving platforms. This includes within applications such as construction and infrastructure monitoring (such as for transport, energy and defence), examining heritage sites through non-invasive survey and agriculture such as for the detection of compacted soil. This project was a key part of the road map in enabling these.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Construction,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Security and Diplomacy,Transport

 
Description The findings have been used to pursue commercial development within UK industry both within the project and within follow-on projects. This has led to increased numbers of jobs in quantum technology in UK industry for component and sensor developers, and is enabling development towards products. This includes work regarding sub-systems (such as laser systems, vacuum systems, electronics) and sensor instruments (cold atom gradiometers), both of which are now being developed as industry prototypes - with first prototype gravity gradiometers expected in 2020. The first sales of products based on the knowledge transferred within this project and others are now starting to be realised, with major progress towards an industrial prototype sensor well-underway. Furthermore, through undertaking the project and discussing with end users within the UK Quantum Technology Hub in Sensors and Timing, we have seen multiple companies of a range of sizes (including SMEs and primes) focusing on their internal road maps for quantum sensors - with this being strongly driven by our vision towards operation on moving platforms. This has contributed to a strong increase in the prevalence of quantum technology within UK industry, and led to specific job roles within end user companies. As such, impact is still being generated but our research has had an impact upon the sensor development community, and led to growth of roles within the end user community. The project has been disseminated widely to the public, industry and policy level stakeholders. This has had some societal impact through helping to inspire and propagate the science and is helping to create a UK industry base. In the longer term, it is hoped that societal impact can be garnered through the benefit the sensors will bring to numerous applications - with the findings of this project being focused upon enabling new application areas involving moving platforms.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Construction,Transport,Other
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Gravity Pioneer
Amount £6,005,395 (GBP)
Funding ID 104613 
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2018 
End 03/2021
 
Description BAE Systems visit to University on 21 March 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Gave presentation highlighting work and research carried out by the QT Hub.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Invited seminar and panel discussion at "Quantum Technology for Transport" held by Innovate UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The seminar was aimed at describing the activities of the quantum technology hub for sensing and metrology, with a focus on for use in transport and transport related infrastructure and upon cold atom based gravity and gravity gradiometry. This included disseminating work underway in the hub and relevant projects funded by Innovate UK/EPSRC and DSTL. This helped demonstrate the potential benefits of quantum technology in these areas, and has contributed to consortium building and agenda setting for follow-on projects/calls.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description MBDA Systems follow up visit on 23 Oct 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Follow up visit organised by Richard Fox, College Business Engagement. MBDA met with Mike Holynski, Yeshpal Singh and Max Turner. Discussed work of the QT Hub.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Network Rail visit on 4 June 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Jenny Cooke and Adam Kirkup from Network Rail met with myself, Nicole Metje, Simon Bennett and Mike Holynski. Discussed research and development of sensors.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Ordance Survey visit (Jeremy Morley & Stefano) on 21 March 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Nicole Metje joined the meeting and discussed quantum gravity and civil engineering / mapping . Lab tour given.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Sachin Kinge, Toyota Europe visit on 23 Aug 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Discussion around sensors and navigation. Given tour of labs.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Tim Bradshaw (Russell Group) visit 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Highlighted work of QT Hub and given lab tour.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Visit - Chris Skidmore, MP (Minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Highlighted work and research of the QT Hub and given lab tour.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description West Midlands Trains visited on 23 October 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact CEO, Jan Chaudhry-Van der Velde met with Max Turner and Mike Holynski. Discussed work of the QT Hub.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018