The Future of Space-Based Quantum Technology
(Discover) Rainer Kaltenbaek at the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information, in Austria, and colleagues throughout Europe, who have mapped out the future in this area and set out the advances that space-based quantum technologies. IQT-News summarizes the future potential as seen through the eyes and experience of Dr. Kaltzenbaek and colleagues.
Kaltenbaek and colleagues point out that other quantum technologies other than quantum computingare set to have equally impressive impacts. Take for example, atom interferometry with quantum sensors.
These devices can measure with unprecedented accuracy any change in motion of a satellite in orbit as it is buffeted by tiny variations in the Earth’s gravitational field. These changes are caused by factors such as the movement of cooler, higher density water flows in the deep ocean, flooding, by the movement of the continents and by ice flows.
Quantum sensors will pave the way for a new era of Earth observation. These studies will reveal hard-to-observe effects of climate change on deep ocean currents, how stresses are building in continents as they move and will help us better understand Earth’s geology. “Space-based quantum sensors will enable better monitoring of the Earth’s resources and improve the predictions of Earthquakes and the adverse effects of climate change, like droughts and floods,” says Kaltenbaek and colleagues.
Better quantum clocks are also set to become influential. The key technology here is not so much the ability to keep time but the ability to transfer this information to another location with high precision. This ability will lead to networks of space-based clocks that are synchronized more precisely than anything available today.
One important application will be to create synthetic aperture telescopes for visible light.
The idea is to record the arrival time of light waves at two different locations and then to compute an image of their source, such as a distant star. The resolution of this technique matches the resolution of a conventional telescope with an aperture equal to the distance between these points, which can be thousands of kilometers apart — hence the term synthetic aperture.
In the short term, the most high-profile advantages from space-based quantum technologies will come from secure communications. One well known application of quantum theory is in allowing information to be transmitted with perfect security.
All of this will require significant planning, much cooperation and plenty of funding. Europe has committed significant funds to future quantum technologies, China is ahead of the game in space-based quantum tech while the US lacks focus in some areas.