M Squared reveals pioneering ‘quantum’ compass

Scientists from M Squared revealed a transportable, standalone quantum accelerometer, the first of its kind in the UK. Picture: Contributed
Scientists from M Squared revealed a transportable, standalone quantum accelerometer, the first of its kind in the UK. Picture: Contributed
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A Glasgow-based laser technology firm has unveiled a new “quantum” compass that could allow navigation without relying on satellites.

Scientists from M Squared and a team from Imperial College London have revealed a transportable, standalone quantum accelerometer, the first of its kind in the UK.

Accelerometers measure how an object’s velocity changes over time to track its position and although they are already used in technologies like mobile phones and laptops, those applications cannot maintain their accuracy over longer periods.

The quantum accelerometer is able to provide the precision and accuracy required for navigation by measuring properties of “supercool” atoms.

The device, which is initially designed to aid navigation of large vehicles such as ships, has been developed by M Squared and Imperial College under the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme, a £270 million, five-year UK government investment programme.

Graeme Malcolm, chief executive of M Squared, said the development will help put the UK in pole position in a rapidly emerging sector.

“This commercially viable quantum device will put the UK at the heart of the coming quantum age. The collaborative efforts to realise the potential of quantum navigation illustrate Britain’s unique strength in bringing together industry and academia – building on advancements at the frontier of science to create real-world applications for the betterment of society.”

Ed Hinds, from the Centre for Cold Matter at Imperial, said: “I think it’s tremendously exciting that this quantum technology is now moving out of the basic science lab and being applied to problems in the wider world.”