(ScientificAmerican) Qantum sensors could be transformative, enabling autonomous vehicles that can “see” around corners, underwater navigation systems, early-warning systems for volcanic activity and earthquakes, and portable scanners that monitor a person’s brain activity during daily life.
Quantum sensors reach extreme levels of precision by exploiting the quantum nature of matter—using the difference between, for example, electrons in different energy states as a base unit.
Most quantum-sensing systems remain expensive, oversized and complex, but a new generation of smaller, more affordable sensors should open up new applications.
Quantum systems remain extremely susceptible to disturbances, which could limit their application to controlled environments. But governments and private investors are throwing money at this and other challenges, including those of cost, scale and complexity; the U.K., for example, has put £315 million into the second phase of its National Quantum Computing Program (2019–2024). Industry analysts expect quantum sensors to reach the market in the next three to five years, with an initial emphasis on medical and defense applications.

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