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Trumpf and Sick developing 'first' industrial quantum sensor

09 Nov 2020

Successful functional test of quantum optical sensor; market for quantum sensors considered to be €1.1 billion by 2023.

Wholly-owned Trumpf subsidiary Q.ANT and sensor specialist Sick have announced that they are to work together on the development of quantum optical sensors.

The two high-tech companies will cooperate to develop quantum technology for sensors for industrial use. Quantum sensors enable measurements with unprecedented accuracy, say the partners. The signing of the agreement this month was preceded by a successful functional test of the world’s first quantum optical sensor for serial production.

“Sick is expanding its position as a worldwide technology leader in the sensor sector by embarking on the production of quantum sensors. Quantum sensors are a key technology for the future of industry,” said Robert Bauer, Chairman of the Executive Board of Sick AG.

Sick will be responsible for application development and sales of the product; Trumpf subsidiary Q.ANT takes on production of the measurement technology – and thus the sensor’s core technology.

“Quantum technology is an enormous opportunity for German and European industry,” said Peter Leibinger, Chief Technology Officer at Trumpf. “This will be the first time that the partnership between our two high-tech companies will involve a product for serial production.

“The quantum sensor enables highly accurate measurements, and will provide insights that will lead to completely new industrial applications.” The first use of the new quantum sensors is planned for 2021.

Highly precise measurement

Quantum sensors have previously mainly been used in research. For the first time, Q.ANT and SICK have now successfully completed functional tests for an industrial application. “Quantum technology enables, for example, ultrafast measurements of the movement and size distribution of particles. With industrialization of these sensors, not just us but Germany – as a high-tech location – takes a major step towards the commercialization of quantum technology,” said Michael Förtsch, CEO of Q.ANT.

Using laser light, quantum sensors permit highly efficient measurements that would be impossible with conventional processes. “Quantum technology represents the next level for sensors because it shifts hitherto firmly established technical limits,” said Niels Syassen, Senior Vice President R&D at SICK and responsible for the project.

“Using quantum effects, additional details can be perceived from signal noise where, up to now, no specific signals would have been measureable. This enables the measurement of particles that are about two hundred times smaller than the width of a human hair.” The quantum sensors will initially be used for analyzing substances in air.

Increased market volume

The partners believe that quantum sensors could in future become everyday equipment in various industries: “for example, they could be used in civil engineering to visualize underground structures before construction work begins; in the pharmaceutical industry they could make it easier to determine the best composition of tablet powder.

“In the electronics sector circuits could be inspected through surfaces; and highly accurate measurements could be made in industry in general. The market for quantum sensors could grow steadily with industrialization. Experts at Germany’s National Academy of Science and Engineering (Acatech) estimate the worldwide market volume of industrial quantum sensors at about EUR 1.1 bn. by 2023.”

Q.ANT is a wholly-owned subsidiary of TRUMPF and is based in Stuttgart. The start-up employs about 15 personnel and makes quantum technology suitable for daily use with the help of new photonic technologies. Trumpf has been using Sick sensor solutions in its production and logistical processes for many years so the new cooperation on quantum technology builds upon a well-founded technological partnership.

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