Principal investigators
Dana Anderson; Penina Axelrad; Murray Holland; Marco Nicotra

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) 

Collaboration + support
Ann and H. J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences; Electrical, Computer and Engineering; JILA; Physics; University of Texas Austin; University of California, Santa Barbara; California Institute of Technology; National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

CU Boulder engineers and physicists are working with NASA as part of a multi-university institute seeking to advance quantum sensing technology for next-generation Earth science applications. 

The $15 million Quantum Pathways Institute is focused on quantum sensing, which involves observing how atoms react to small changes in their environment and then using that information to infer the time-variations in the gravity field of the Earth. This will enable scientists to improve accuracy in measuring important climate processes such as sea level rise and ice melt. 

The institute, led by the University of Texas Austin, includes researchers from across CU Boulder. The Colorado-based team will help develop new quantum sensors drawing on JILA’s decades of experience with atomic clocks—devices that measure the incredibly-fast oscillations of atoms cooled down to just a fraction of a degree above absolute zero.