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NASA backs ColdQuanta to shrink quantum apparatus

16 Oct 2019

$1M award intended to accelerate commercial deployment of laser-cooled atomic systems.

Colorado-based ColdQuanta, which specializes in quantum technology systems based around laser-cooled atoms, has been awarded $1 million from NASA’s Civilian Commercialization Readiness Pilot Program (CCRPP).

The company says that the financial backing will enable it to develop "significantly smaller" cold-atom systems with a high degree of ruggedness.

More specifically, the company anticipates shrinking a self-contained cold-atom instrument currently occumpying a volume 400 liters to just 40 liters.

ISS collaboration
The award follows earlier collaboration between the startup firm and the space agency that saw installation of the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) equipment on board the International Space Station (ISS) last year.

The ISS kit is based on ColdQuanta’s "Quantum Core" technology, which was developed with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and is expected to lead to compact quantum-based timekeeping, navigation, and radio-frequency field sensing systems, as well as quantum communications, computing, and simulation.

ColdQuanta CEO Bo Ewald said in a company release: “We believe this new award from NASA is clear validation of the success of the deployment of ColdQuanta’s Quantum Core on the ISS and of ColdQuanta’s expertise in quantum systems.

“The new funding will help accelerate our development and productization of quantum-based technologies for signal processing, global positioning, and computing. While it is still early in the development of all quantum-based technologies, we see an enormous opportunity for ColdQuanta in these new markets.”

Photonics components key
Earlier this year ColdQuanta's founder and CTO Dana Anderson told a quantum-themed panel session at the LASER World of Photonics event in Munich, Germany, that developments in quantum systems were now "largely a matter of engineering", and that photonics technologies will provide many of the supporting components to make quantum applications not just possible, but practical.

“The NASA commercialization program helps us to continue to develop our Quantum Core technology, reduce the size of our products, and refine our manufacturing processes,” said Anderson in response to the latest NASA support.

“All of these advances are steps toward our goal of commercializing entirely new types of quantum systems. It will be especially exciting to deliver another rugged, turnkey cold atom system in a deployable chassis at the end of the effort.”

Matched with internal funding from ColdQuanta, NASA's CCRPP award is set to optimize several manufacturing processes, and deliver a highly compact cold atom system suitable for portable quantum atomic devices.

"The system is targeted to enable deployable atomic clocks, cold-atom-based sensors, and inertial measurement units suitable for platforms ranging from ground vehicles to satellites," stated the firm.

Founded by Anderson back in 2007 as a spin-out from the University of Colorado, ColdQuanta last year raised $6.75 million in seed funding from investors Maverick Ventures and Global Frontier Investments.

NASA video: the Cold Atom Laboratory:

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