(UBirmingham) Quantum gravity sensors, developed by physicists and civil engineers at the University of Birmingham, promise to illuminate the underworld, with far-reaching economic and social benefits. Quantum gravity sensors work by dropping charged atom clouds that, because of the principle of superposition, can be in two different states at once. This mind-boggling quality enables observers to deduce underground conditions by comparing the different ways that atom clouds fall. Quantum gravity gradiometers promise to reduce measurement times and can detect targets like mine-shafts which may be ten metres or more below ground.
Being able to ‘see’ what’s under the surface would make construction safer, cut costs, and avoid some of the overruns and overspend that bedevil infrastructure projects. Chris Rogers, Professor of Geotechnical Engineering at the University of Birmingham, explained that companies spend millions of pounds investigating ground conditions, and those working on upgrading and maintaining underground utilities are often working with utilitiy records and mechanical excavators, analogous to a treasure hunter with a map and spade,