The University of Southampton

Miniaturised vacuum chamber unleashes new possibilities for quantum future

Published: 28 November 2019
Dr Andrei Dragomir has dramatically reduced the size of a core component of quantum technology.

Physicists at the University of Southampton have developed a miniaturised cold atom system that will help unlock the commercial potential of quantum devices.

The vacuum chamber vastly reduces the size of a core component of quantum technology, opening new possibilities for the next generation of computing, sensing and communications applications.

Dr Andrei Dragomir, of the Quantum, Light and Matter (QLM) Group, is founding spinout company Aquark technologies to drive the technology forward.

Unlike modern electronics, which rely on the manipulation of electrons, quantum devices tap into the potential of new physics exploring tiny energy levels of atoms and sub-atomic particles.

"There has been a surge of investment in bringing these quantum technologies to market, however most of it is directed toward software development rather than hardware components," Andrei explains.

"Whilst these devices do perform better than their classical counterparts, they depend on cold atoms systems which occupy large spaces, are complex, power hungry and require expensive qualified personnel to operate them. This creates a tremendous engineering challenge for the commercial application of quantum devices and is the major obstacle preventing wider adoption."

After years of research, Southampton physicists have transformed the current complex, power-intensive systems into the miniaturised vacuum chamber which can accomplish all the tasks for a fraction of the weight, size and power requirements.

The spinout's enabling technologies are building upon Andrei's doctoral thesis, 'Cold atoms in your pocket', which focussed on the construction of these vacuum chambers, the study of the eutectic bond and the manufacturing of integrated electric feedthroughs, together with the development of new cold atom trap geometries.

"The emerging generation of quantum devices will revolutionise countless industries, including computing, civil engineering, telecoms, oil and gas, and semiconductors," Andrei says. "Aquark technologies is positioned at the heart of this step change, as we can achieve for quantum technology what miniaturising transistors did for semiconductors and so power the continued growth of this emerging industry.

"We will turn these incredible but complex devices into simple to use, plug-and-play systems, starting by establishing ourselves as market leaders in the miniaturisation of vacuum technology, atom sources and electronics."

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