Scientists from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) have developed a new quantum sensor that is capable of covering the entire radio frequency spectrum.
According to the scientists, the new sensor could give soldiers the ability to detect communication signals over the entire radio frequency spectrum, from 0 to 100 GHz.
Such a feat is impossible with a traditional receiver system, and would require multiple systems of individual antennas, amplifiers and other components.
In 2018, U.S. Army scientists were the first in the world to create a quantum receiver that uses highly excited, super-sensitive atoms known as Rydberg atoms, to detect communications signals.
According to ARL scientist David Meyer, the current team first calculated the receiver’s channel capacity, or rate of data transmission, based on fundamental principles.
They then achieved that performance experimentally in their lab – improving on other groups’ results by orders of magnitude.
“These new sensors can be very small and virtually undetectable, giving soldiers a disruptive advantage,” notes Meyer.
“Rydberg-atom based sensors have only recently been considered for general electric field sensing applications, including as a communications receiver.”
“While Rydberg atoms are known to be broadly sensitive, a quantitative description of the sensitivity over the entire operational range has never been done.”
To assess potential applications, Army scientists conducted an analysis of the Rydberg sensor’s sensitivity to oscillating electric fields over an enormous range of frequencies – from 0 to 1012 Hertz.
The results show that the Rydberg sensor can reliably detect signals over the entire spectrum and compare favorably with other established electric field sensor technologies, such as electro-optic crystals and dipole antenna-coupled passive electronics.
“Quantum mechanics allows us to know the sensor calibration and ultimate performance to a very high degree, and it’s identical for every sensor,” says Meyer.
“This result is an important step in determining how this system could be used in the field.”
Image and content: U.S. Army/ARL