Published: May 7, 2019 By

CU Boulder has a tradition of excellence in quantum science and technology, dating back to Eric A. Cornell, Wolfgang Ketterle and Carl E. Wieman’s Nobel Prize winning work creating the Bose-Einstein Condensate in dilute gases of alkali atoms. Work in the field continues on and off campus in the many companies that have been founded by CU engineering and physics faculty and former students.

Many of these companies, and their founders, are contributing to the next phase of research and development through the new CUbit Quantum Inititavie. A collaboration between CU Boulder, the National Institute of Standards Technology’s Quantum Physics Division (the NIST portion of JILA) and quantum-related industry partners in Colorado, CUbit forms a foundation for collaboration and innovation across the groups.

These three local companies have connections to the College of Engineering and Applied Science and the larger CUbit initiative: 

FieldLine Inc.

FieldLine was co-founded by Associate Research Professor Svenja Knappe in the Mechanical Engineering Department. The company aims to improve magnetic sensing and imaging using microfabricated quantum sensors.

Students working on pediatric brain imaging equipment Magnetic signals are unaffected as they pass through walls, water or the human body allowing for clear imaging of a variety of objects that other methods can’t produce. Magnetic field imaging is useful as a non-invasive way to diagnose cardiac problems for example. FieldLine is building and miniaturizing quantum sensors and systems that image these fields with high precision. The company is also implementing sophisticated to then extract meaningful information from the images.

One of the applications of this work is in the non-invasive brain imaging technique magnetoencephalography. Here, FieldLine’s technology can be used to create tiny lightweight sensors on helmets (see photo) for non-invasive brain imaging using quantum technology. These sensors would allow patients to move freely during scanning.

Knappe is currently the PI on a project titled “A Chip-Scale Atomic Clock Based on Nanowire LEDs” that is funded through a CUbit seed grant.

LongPath Technologies

LongPath was founded by Assistant Professor Greg Rieker in the Mechanical Engineering Department and is built around NIST and University of Colorado laser technology that could offer oil and gas operators more efficient and cheaper leak detection in the field.

The laser is integrated with a mobile platform that can be placed among dense oil and gas operations. The system swivels 360 degrees, sending out carefully-tuned, invisible beams of light to reflect off small mirrors placed a mile or more away. If the beam, which is composed of over 100,000 wavelengths of light, passes through part of a gas plume blowing like a ribbon through the air, gases in the plume absorb some of the light before it returns to the detector. This lets researchers identify the unique absorption “fingerprints” of gases like methane and carbon dioxide. By using atmospheric models for how gases are moving across the field at the time, researchers can determine the leak location and size.

The system is based on Frequency Comb laser technology, originally demonstrated by NIST and CU Boulder’s Nobel-prize winning John Hall. The laser emits hundreds of thousands of wavelengths of light, compared with the single wavelength of many traditional lasers. This laser supports measurements with extreme accuracy and stability, enabling precision atomic clocks and future mapping technologies. According to NIST, “highly accurate measurements of frequencies are also essential for many other advanced fields of science that require the identification or manipulation of atoms or molecules, such as detection of toxic biochemical agents, studies of ultrafast dynamics and quantum computing.”

ColdQuanta Inc.

Physics Professor Dana Anderson and his partners founded ColdQuanta in 2007 in Boulder. The company is known for its commercial BEC machines and a variety of other instruments that make it easier to start doing quantum research in computing, signal processing and time measurement. Anderson said the company has a broad line of site, also offering products and services in gravimetry, magnetometry and positioning, and navigation. Anderson also has an appointment in the Department of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering here at CU.

ColdQuanta currently employs several CU grads and Anderson said engineers would be needed for their work in the future. Anderson is partnering with engineering faculty on one of the seed grants coming out of the CUbit inititative. He said CUbit is a great vehicle of futher collaboration between colleges, departments, labs and commercial enterprise.

“As we mature our ties to engineering will also mature,” he said.