October 29, 2018

macQsimal – a new generation of sensors

"Establishing European leadership in the quantum sensing industry". This is in essence the ambition of macQsimal, a new project selected by the European Commission for their recently launched Quantum Technologies Flagship initiative. Coordinated by CSEM, this consortium of 14 industrial and academic partners will create new commercial opportunities by leveraging quantum effects to achieve unprecedented sensitivity, accuracy and resolution of devices for sensing and metrology applications.

MEMS atomic vapor cell

The first quantum revolution resulted in groundbreaking technologies such as transistors and lasers, without which current computers, mobile phones and the internet would have been unimaginable. Today, the ability to manipulate fundamental quantum properties in systems and materials is paving the way for a second quantum revolution. A global race has begun to exploit the enormous potential of quantum technologies (QT) and spearhead transformative advances in fields such as health, security, transport, energy and environmental science. The €1 billion Quantum Flagship initiative from the European Commission aims to position the continent at the forefront of this second revolution by supporting projects that will unlock the full potential of QT and bring commercial products to the market.

Taking sensor performance to the limits allowed by nature

Quantum sensors are expected to be key enablers of the first achievements in this new technological era. They promise to drastically increase the performance of consumer devices, medical services and future applications in the Internet of Things. They might also likely be the door opener to entirely new opportunities which the world is yet to see. As part of the Quantum Flagship initiative, the macQsimal project will exploit the potential of atomic vapor cells to provide a new generation of highly efficient sensors. The project consortium is coordinated by CSEM and includes 14 partners representing the whole knowledge chain from basic science to industrial deployment. "We have spent a decade developing miniature atomic clocks and other systems whose core quantum technology - atomic vapor cells - has the potential to enable sensors with phenomenal performances. This could lead to huge leaps of improvement in many domains," explains Mario El-Khoury, CEO of CSEM. "A new type of sensor could, for example, boost autonomous cars' 3D orientation sensing or revolutionize human brain activity measurement," adds Jacques Haesler, Senior Project Manager at CSEM and project coordinator of macQsimal .

Kick-starting a dynamic, multi-sector sensor industry in Europe

macQsimal is all about bringing new sensors, with greatly improved performances thanks to quantum effects, closer than ever to industrial applications. To achieve this, it will combine state-of-the-art sensor physics with micro-fabricated atomic vapor cells (based on so-called MEMS technology), allowing for high-volume, high-reliability and low-cost deployment. It will concurrently apply advanced squeezing, entanglement and cavity-QED methods in miniaturized sensors. The result will be an advanced, multi-target platform with outstanding sensitivity for five key physical observables: magnetic and electric fields, time, rotational motion and gas concentration. The consortium will use this platform to develop high-impact prototype devices for applications including autonomous navigation, non-invasive medical diagnosis and drug detection.

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