Typically, the performance of measurement devices is limited by deleterious effects such as thermal noise and vibration. Notable exceptions are atomic clocks, which operate very near their fundamental limits. Driving devices to their physical limits will open new application spaces critical to future DoD systems. Indeed, many defense-critical applications already require exceptionally precise time and frequency standards enabled only by atomic clocks. The Global Positioning System (GPS) and the internet are two key examples.
Measurement systems based on atomic physics benefit from the exquisite properties of the atom. Among these are (a) precise frequency transitions, (b) the ability to initialize, control, and readout the atomic state and (c) environmental isolation. In addition, atomic properties are absolute, and do not “drift” over time. In this sense, atoms are self-calibrated, making them ideal for precision sensing.
The Quantum-Assisted Sensing and Readout (QuASAR) program will build on established control and readout techniques from atomic physics to develop a suite of measurement tools that will be broadly applicable across disciplines, helping to address outstanding challenges in physics, materials and biological sciences. QuASAR will push toward fundamental operating limits by developing atom and atom-like sensors that operate near the standard quantum limit (SQL), constructing hybrid quantum sensors that combine the optimal sensing and readout capabilities of disparate quantum systems and entangling multiple sensors/devices to operate below the SQL. These types of devices will find broad application across the DoD, particularly in the areas of biological imaging, inertial navigation and robust global positioning systems.
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