First GPS-free device developed with quantum mechanics could usher in a new era in navigation

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Sandia National Laboratories recently unveiled the new design structure of their next generation navigation system in a small, compact device. Although it became a tiny machine, the innovation is expected to mark a breakthrough in the navigation industry.

The new navigation system is similar to the size of small fruits, but contains different types of metals and minerals that make up the entire safe chamber. The architecture of the device specializes in containing an atomic cloud that would enable a chemical approach for precise navigational use.

Quantum-based vs. GPS navigation

(Photo: Bret Latter)

Sandia National Laboratory expert Peter Schwindt said in a report for the Florida News Times that the small equipment is the most efficient quantum sensor that is reliable to function. The device uses the physics of quantum mechanics, which will exceed the current capacity of conventional navigation tools in this day and age. Once the innovation is fully developed, researchers aim for commercial diffusion.

Sandia has specialized the device to work as a core technology that would advance the future of present navigation systems. In addition to the conventional Global Positioning System, or GPS, said Schwindt, the navigation kernel uses a novel approach to carry out its systemic operation.

GPS is the most widely used navigation technology today, as it currently has the most advanced program, such as the atomic clock, which synchronizes itself with the satellite networks in real time. Because of this, every device relies on GPS to implement the most accurate navigation functions. However, the main problem with GPS devices is that they are prone to signal interference and location spoofing. Schwindt said this issue could have a serious impact on projects and activities that are primarily based on navigation, such as commercial vehicles and military vehicles.

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Next generation navigation pioneer

The new navigation kernel was developed to provide solutions to the puzzle. Schwindt said that by equipping the device, vehicles could track their own position in the future without relying on satellites. It will be as accurate as the atomic clocks but with additional features like acceleration and rotation measurement using the rubidium composition.

Atomic accelerometers, as well as gyroscopes, are equipped with most navigation systems in modern vehicles and other devices that are powered by location mapping. However, these devices must conform to the necessary architecture of large vehicles and the larger they are, the more electricity is consumed.

Sandia expert and study co-author Bethany Little said that advances in quantum sensors are accelerating more than ever, and their uses are cumulative in many applications over the ages. Although these applications are possible in laboratory experiments, little is claimed that numerous complications still arise in real-world operations. So instead of using an electric vacuum system, the team used quantum sensors to make the device practical in size while maintaining the precision and reliability of the navigation function. The study was published in the journal AVS Quantum Science with the title “A passiv pumped Vacuum package holding cold Atoms for more than 200 days”.

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For more news and information on physics, see the Science Times.


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