A cold atom gravity gradiometer for field applications

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


Gravity sensing offers a unique way to remotely sense features through the ground or surfaces by mapping local density variations. In particular, in commercial applications it is the sensing technique of choice for detecting deep targets, where alternative techniques are often limited by attenuation or spread. However, gravity is not commonly used due to the considerable amount of time required to perform the surveys. This is limited by vibration in the local environment, causing each measurement point to take several minutes. In this project I will be developing a novel cold atom gravity gradiometer for field applications - which enables exceptional resilience against vibration, aiming to cut the measurement time to one second - drastically reducing the time and cost required to perform a survey. Achieving this will enable gravity sensing to become more pervasive and allow better detection of targets - having impact across areas such as civil engineering and archaeology, and pushing for social and economic benefits such as reductions in road congestion arising due to road works through better accuracy in locating assets and defects allowing fewer and smaller holes to be put into road surfaces. With a growing interest in UK industry, my project will focus on developing and optimising a sensor in order to demonstrate its use in the field. This is a considerable experimental challenge, requiring improvements over the state of the art in terms of sensitivity, portability and robustness.


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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

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509590/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1820560 Studentship EP/N509590/1 01/10/2016 31/03/2020 Ben Stray
Description Presented at the UK National Quantum Technology Showcase, London, 2018. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Took some of our experimental demonstrators. Good engagement with people who knew nothing of the field. Made connections with some companies that will work with in future.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://uknqt.epsrc.ac.uk/news-and-events/events/