QFC: Quantum Fibre Clock

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Electronic and Electrical Engineering

Abstract

There are a multitude of both civilian and military applications needing precise timing and timekeeping. There is considerable interest is so-called chip-scale atomic clocks exploiting quantum effects and having stabilities of the order of 1E-12 for simple thermal atom clocks to 1E-16 in the case of optical lattice clocks. The applications of compact atomic clocks are vast and include:

1. Autonomous navigation, e.g., automotive, maritime, aviation, personal;
2. Space, e.g., micro satellites;
3. Communications, e.g., cellular systems, telecommunications networks, military radio;
4. Finance, e.g., high-frequency computer based trading, data security

The QFC project is a direct response to the challenges outlined in the UK Quantum Technology Landscape 2014 (Pritchard & Till, 2014). The project is the first step towards transforming the new quantum clock technologies from research laboratory experiments into engineered solutions. The new quantum clock technologies, encompassing thermal atom, trapped single cold-atom and trapped multiple cold-atom physics are disruptive innovations. Such clocks will create new markets and applications through both their improved stability and also potential reduction in size, weight, power and cost.

To reap the benefits of the new quantum science innovation, engineering innovation is now required. The understanding and behaviour of quantum clock physics has been obtained in the well-defined, benign confines of a laboratory, using general-purpose equipment. The challenge now is to develop robust physics packages able to withstand the end-user environment while optimising the electronic systems for performance, power, mass, volume and cost. Recognising the variety of applications for the new quantum clocks, the approach of QFC includes a number of innovations to maintain flexibility. There will likely not be a single optimum solution for any application; one may wish to have best performance (highest stability) or best efficiency (lowest power). QFC will allow the user to choose. There are no current commercial clocks with such capabilities.

Planned Impact

Since the research carried out by Bath forms part of an SME-led project, much of the basic research that will be undertaken has a clear and natural route-to-market. The most immediate beneficiaries of the research in this project are consortium members, particularly the leading SME. There will likely be downstream economic impact to all parties which in the case of Bath is likely to be in the form of IP licensing revenues. The development of new sovereign atomic clock technologies in the UK is likely to lead to the creation of jobs in manufacturing in addition to direct wealth creation.

In the longer term the technology and knowledge developed in this project has the potential for further significant social and economic impact arising from new applications afforded by the availability of small low-power small-scale atomic clocks including defence, space, navigation and telecommunications. Engagement with the likely user-community will be ensured through the collaboration with the consortium members. There is also scope for further academic impact and collaboration with academic and industry communities engaged in research into nano- and micro-fabrication methods, hollow-core fibre and quantum optics in general.

This work has the potential to impact all application areas including
1. Autonomous navigation, e.g., automotive, maritime, aviation, personal;
2. Space, e.g., micro satellites;
3. Communications, e.g., cellular systems, telecommunications networks, military radio;
4. Finance, e.g., high-frequency computer based trading, data security.

Publications

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Siddiq K (2019) Phase Noise in FMCW Radar Systems in IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems

 
Description We have developed a compact quantum atomic clock based on coherent population trapping in a small alkali metal vapour filled structure
Exploitation Route The work is of commercial interest from several companies requiring high stability clocks. There has been interest from Chronos Technology Limited and DSTL
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Security and Diplomacy

 
Description Chronos 
Organisation Chronos Technologies Limited
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Timing test equipment and advice
Collaborator Contribution IP under license, knowledge transfer
Impact GNSS jamming related products
Start Year 2008
 
Description TMD 
Organisation TMD Technologies Limited
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Collaboration on grants, transfer of knowledge
Collaborator Contribution Supply of materials and components
Impact The main contribution lies in the technologies underpinning small-scale quantum clocks.
Start Year 2014