Researchers in the CU Boulder College of Engineering and Applied Science are part of a new National Science Foundation award that could have applications in deep space exploration.
The three-year award, titled Quantum Control of Ultracold Atoms in Optical Lattices for Inertial Sensing for Space Applications, totals $1.9 million and is led by Professor Dana Anderson in the Physics Department. Other CU investigators include Smead Aerospace Engineering Sciences Professor Penina Axelrad; Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering Assistant Professor Marco M. Nicotra; and physics Professor Murray Holland. Professor Alex Zozulya at Worcester Polytechnic Institute is also an investigator on the project.
The interdisciplinary team is trying to advance optical atomic lattice inertial sensing technology and determine its potential use for space navigation. The physics behind optical atomic lattices shows great promise of bringing about the next generation of high-precision inertial sensors. The team will assess requirements for use of these in space navigation, and will design, build and test a prototype sensor to meet these requirements. By precisely sensing disturbing forces acting on spacecraft in interplanetary space, quantum sensors could reduce dependence on tracking from the Earth and enhance autonomy for deep space exploration.
The award is part of the Quantum Idea Incubator for Transformational Advances in Quantum Systems program. That program is designed to support interdisciplinary teams that will explore highly innovative, original and potentially transformative ideas for developing and applying quantum science, quantum computing and quantum engineering according to the NSF.
“I am looking forward to this engineering and physics collaboration,” Anderson said. “Here is hoping that we are one of several for the campus going forward.”