Quantum Leap: Shrinking sensing technologies for field operations

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1. Challenge Statement

The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) are seeking innovative solutions for overcoming scientific and technical barriers that prevent or limit the ability to field electromagnetic and gravimetric quantum-sensing systems for Defence and Security purposes.

2. Background and Context

Quantum-sensing technologies promise to deliver capabilities and performance beyond the limits of physics used in traditional sensors. As an example, Canada is home to many laboratories and companies that are expanding the limits of sensing technologies through the development and testing of quantum-based systems able to sense electromagnetic and gravitational fields at levels that are difficult to detect using classical systems. In order to provide a decisive advantage, however, these technologies and systems need to be translated out of the lab to be used in the field.

The barrier to the adoption of quantum-sensing technologies in the field is the need to provide suitable mechanical, thermal, and electromagnetic-shielding environments for the quantum systems. Technologies that provide suitable environments in the lab are often too large, heavy, delicate, or “power hungry” for use in military platforms (e.g. spacecraft, aircraft, ships, trucks, radar receivers and human-portable). New, portable and robust, quantum-based sensing technologies, devices and systems need to be developed.

3. Desired Outcomes

The goal of this challenge is to overcome scientific and technological barriers that prevent or limit the ability to transition quantum-sensing technologies from lab experiments to portable and robust sensing systems. Examples of research solutions include, but are not limited to:

  • Isolation of optical and quantum systems from external thermal, vibration, and electromagnetic field sources and variations;
  • Miniaturization of large subsystems and components;
  • Reduction in power consumption requirements of existing technologies;
  • Creation and maintenance of ultra-high vacuum;
  • Integration of lasers and photonic systems in small packages, etc.

4. Supplementary Information

This challenge supports the development of fieldable technologies that will enable electromagnetic and gravimetric quantum-sensing to support defence and security missions including, but not limited to:

  • Surveillance and detection of threats (e.g. incoming missiles, aircraft, etc.);
  • Stand-off detection and characterization of hazards (e.g. chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive); 
  • Detection and tracking of targets (vehicles, autonomous and weapon systems) in confined, obscured, or hidden environments (e.g. around corners, in buildings, in underground bunkers and caves, in the dark, under water, in smoke or dust).

Solutions should be developed in the context of the eventual demonstration and use of one or more of the above quantum-sensing systems “in the field.”

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