Inside Quantum Technology

SBQuantum’s quantum magnetometer selected for MagQuest Challenge

SBQuantum's quantum magnetometer.

SBQuantum, a Canadian company creating diamond quantum magnetometers to measure both the amplitude and the orientation of Earth’s magnetic field, recently announced it was tapped to participate in the final phases of the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s MagQuest Challenge, along with its satellite technology partner, Spire Global.

The multi-million dollar competition aims to find more accurate and efficient ways to map the earth’s electromagnetic field, also known as the World Magnetic Model (WMM), SBQuantum said. Having the capability to measure the WMM is significant because the Earth’s magnetic field continues to accelerate, and monitoring more the WMM more closely will help inform frequent updates to ensure the model’s accuracy as it is used by aircraft, ships, cars and trucks, and billions of smartphone users every day for navigational purposes.

The MagQuest Challenge resumes this month for its final phase, which includes testing of the three remaining solutions. These solutions are scheduled to be launched into space in 2025 for further testing.

“It is an honor for us to be invited to participate in the final phase of this prestigious competition. We see this as a validation of our years of unwavering work in developing our diamond-powered quantum magnetometer and compensation algorithms,” said David Roy-Guay, CEO and Co-Founder of SBQuantum, who also spoke at IQT Canada this year on the topic of “Quantum Sensors in Mining.”

He added, “Testing the instrument in space represents a fantastic opportunity to show the entire industry what we have built, and to highlight the tremendous potential of quantum-enabled sensors not only for aerospace, but for various other industry verticals as well.”

The Sherbrooke, Quebec firm’s diamond-powered quantum magnetometer “leverages quantum properties to reduce drifts such as those induced by temperature constraints which can distort readings from today’s classical technologies,” the company stated. “The diamond crystal contains four sensing axes in a very small volume at the atomic scale, and the amplitude and direction of its magnetic field measurements provides high accuracy with no blind spots. The device’s use of quantum effects also provides a greater accuracy than existing technologies. By applying a green laser and microwaves to the diamond, a red glow is generated which translates directly to the magnetic field vector measurements at the basis of the WMM.”

The offering for the challenge combines that magnetometer “with a suite of reference sensors to train a machine learning algorithm, which compensates for magnetic field interference,” SBQuantum stated. The solution is designed to provide more accurate WMM measurements and with greater frequency than existing space-borne applications. The company said pre-test analysis suggested that it will potentially provide stable and accurate readings for the WMM in excess of 10-times longer than today’s sensors.

SBQuantum said its quantum magnetometer has already been tested at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center as part of NASA Tournament Lab. Beyond testing its equipment in space via the MagQuest Challenge, the company also intends to bring its miniaturized sensors to unmanned vehicles and a range of other deployment scenarios that SBQuantum claims current sensors cannot perform.

Image: SBQuantum’s quantum magnetometer. (Source: SBQuantum)

Dan O’Shea has covered telecommunications and related topics including semiconductors, sensors, retail systems, digital payments and quantum computing/technology for over 25 years.


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