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Sandia Labs Shows GPS-Free Quantum-Based Wayfinding Device

By IQT News posted 29 Oct 2021

(GPS.World) Countless devices around the world use GPS for wayfinding. It’s possible because atomic clocks, which are known for extremely accurate timekeeping, hold the network of satellites perfectly in sync.
But GPS signals can be jammed or spoofed, potentially disabling navigation systems on commercial and military vehicles alike.
Sandia Labs has developed a GPS-free quantum-based wayfinding device. the avocado-sized vacuum chamber has contained a cloud of atoms at the right conditions for precise navigational measurements. It is the first device that is small, energy-efficient and reliable enough to potentially move quantum sensors — sensors that use quantum mechanics to outperform conventional technologies — from the lab into commercial use,
Instead of relying on satellites, said scientist Peter Schwindt, future vehicles might keep track of their own position. They could do that with onboard devices as accurate as atomic clocks, but that measure acceleration and rotation by shining lasers into small clouds of rubidium gas like the one Sandia has contained.
Atomic accelerometers and gyroscopes already exist, but they’re too bulky and power-hungry to use in an airplane’s navigation system. That’s because they need a large vacuum system to work, one that needs thousands of volts of electricity.
“Quantum sensors are a growing field, and there are lots of applications you can demonstrate in the lab,” said Sandia postdoctoral scientist Bethany Little, who is contributing to the research. “But when you move it into the real world, there are lots of problems you have to solve. Two are making the sensor compact and rugged. The physics takes place all in a cubic centimeter (0.06 cubic inches) of volume, so anything larger than that is wasted space.”
Little said her team has shown that quantum sensing can work without a high-powered vacuum system. This shrinks the package to a practical size without sacrificing reliability.

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