Chip-scale Atomic Systems for a Quantum Navigator

Partners: University of Glasgow (D.J. Paul, M. Sorel, K. Gallacher and V. Georgiev), University of Birmingham (K. Bongs, M. Holynski and A. Demetriadou), Loughborough University (A. Pasquazi and M. Peccianti) and University of Strathclyde (E. Riis and P. Griffin)

EPSRC £10.5M November 2023 to November 2028

Our vision is to pioneer a mobile phone sized quantum navigator by combining chip-scale quantum clocks, accelerometers and rotation sensors (gyroscopes) that can be manufactured on silicon chips to be used for position, navigation and timing without reliance on signals from satellites. Our aim is to improve satellite-free navigator accuracy compared to present marine grade commercial systems by at least x10 with over a x100 reduction in size, weight, power and cost enabled through the development of new science approaches. An analogy is Harrison’s pocket watch, H4, that won the Longitude Prize in 1773 as the small size reduced the uncertainties from temperature and acceleration drifts on navy ships.

Society navigates using satnavs in vehicles and mobile phones but the nano-Watt signals are easy to jam, spoof and do not work inside buildings, under the ocean or underground. Spoofing and jamming are also used by pirates to steal ships, people traffickers and organised crime to hid illegal behaviour, and in military conflict zones to limit situational awareness of opponents.

Resilient navigation without satellites uses dead reckoning where the current position from a previously determined reference is calculated using time, velocity, acceleration and rotation measurements. The UK Government recommends all position, navigation and timing for national security and critical national infrastructure can operate for greater than 3 days without updated references from satellites. The UK Government Blackett Review on Global Navigation Satellite Signals (GNSS) Dependencies and Vulnerabilities states that 5 days loss of satellite navigation has a potential loss of £5.2Bn to the UK economy.

MOD, US DARPA, the European Defence Fund and the Connected Places Catapult indicates that national security and autonomous vehicle markets require far smaller, more accurate, robust and cheaper position, navigation and timing solutions such as the quantum chip-scale systems we proposed to develop. Connected and autonomous vehicles are predicted to create a £100 Bn global market for resilient position, navigation and timing systems with £2.7Bn GVA to the UK economy (>23,400 direct and 14,600 indirect UK jobs) by 2035. This research is key underpinning work to enable that market by developing UK supply chains with industry for practical position, navigation and timing systems.

Quantum rotation sensors / gyroscopes have experimentally demonstrated drift stability performance 65 times better than optical gyroscopes with theoretical performance calculated to be 20,000 times better. Quantum accelerometers have experimentally demonstrated drift stability 4 orders of magnitude superior to classical accelerometers with hybrid systems also showing improvements of x80. At present these demonstrated quantum sensors are difficult to scale below 50 kg and something about the size of a washing machine. This project aims to take photonic integrated circuit and MEMS technologies to develop chip-scale atomic clocks, quantum rotation sensors / gyroscopes and quantum accelerometers to build much smaller and more practical quantum navigators that will have many applications and benefits to UK and global society.

Link to the EPSRC website: