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LASER 2023: Infleqtion wins funding to develop optical atomic clock

29 Jun 2023

UK division of global quantum technologies company makes announcement at World of Quantum.

Quantum information company Infleqtion, based in Oxford, UK, has been awarded funding from Innovate UK to expand its manufacturing capabilities for quantum-enabled systems. Until the end of 2022, Infleqtion was known as Cold Quanta.

The funding, the amount of which was not revealed, will support the development of a new type of optical atomic clock that exceeds the accuracy and reliability of current Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS)-based systems.

The company’s project lead Cornelis Ravensberger made the announcement while presenting the technology at the World of Quantum, part of this week’s LASER World of Photonics, in Munich.

The new clock will achieve a frequency stability that is more than 50 times better than the best commercially available atomic clocks of comparable size, says Infleqtion. This level of accuracy will be essential for applications such as autonomous navigation, resilient power distribution, and national security.

The quantum-enabled PNT – positioning, navigation and timing – systems market is poised for significant growth, said Raveneberger, fueled by the increasing need for accurate PNT systems across various applications, including the deployment of 5G networks.

“Quantum-enabled PNT systems offer significant advantages over traditional GNSS-based systems, including improved accuracy, enhanced resilience, and reduced size and weight. They are also not reliant on external signals, making them less vulnerable to weather conditions, interference, and jamming,” he said.

The funding from Innovate UK will enable Infleqtion to bring its new optical atomic clock to market and make the UK a global leader in the development and manufacture of quantum-enabled PNT systems.

“This project will deliver the UK's first commercially available optical atomic clock which will provide a crucial layer of resilience across many national security applications,” stated Dr. Timothy Ballance, General Manager of Infleqtion UK, in the company’s announcement.

“The funding will allow Infleqtion to advance its manufacturing capability in the UK for systems required to build a wide range of quantum-enabled products. Coupled with our engineering expertise, we are in an excellent position to lead the market in delivering next generation commercial atomic clocks at scale.”

Infleqtion UK is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the flagship commercial brand Infleqtion. Infleqtion UK has a fully equipped quantum research laboratory and established production facilities in Oxford for its UK-developed Photonically Integrated Cold Atom Source (PICAS) product.

The company conducts advanced research and development in inertial sensing and advanced timing for navigation within GNSS-denied environments, radiofrequency sensors for communications and defense applications, memory modules for secure quantum networks, and quantum information platforms for computation and simulation.

Diverse quantum sensing applications

One of the potential applications for quantum sensors is to create a device that can provide accurate navigation without using the GPS satellite system. For the military, this is an important goal since an adversary may try to block the GPS signals by jamming the radio signals or some other means.

There is active research going on to utilize quantum technology for creating a non-GPS navigation system. Infleqtion and the University of Colorado, Boulder have been researching quantum based inertial sensor devices using a machine-designed optical lattice atom interferometer.

This device performs interferometry in an optical lattice formed by standing waves of light. As can be seen in the picture above the device consists of a one-dimensional array of Rubidium atoms that are evaporated and loaded into a magneto-optical trap.

By shining different lasers onto the array and observing the resulting image with a camera, the system can use AI-based reinforcement learning and control techniques to calculate acceleration. An advantage of Infleqtion’s approach is that it is real-time reconfigurable with software control, has a compact form factor, can be scaled up for higher sensitivity, and is robust.

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