The University of Southampton

Miniaturised quantum hardware spinout receives investment to launch

Published: 18 August 2021
Dr Andrei Dragomir (l) and Dr Alexander Jantzen (r) have launched Aquark Technologies.

A ground-breaking innovation in quantum hardware has secured investment to spin out from the University of Southampton.

Aquark Technologies, launched by former postgraduate research students Dr Andrei Dragomir and Dr Alexander Jantzen, has created a miniaturised cold atom system following years of research.

Unlike modern electronics, which rely on the manipulation of electrons, quantum devices tap into and manipulate the wave-like properties of atoms and tiny changes in their energy levels. These devices use a cold atom chamber in which to manipulate the individual atoms.

Aquark Technologies' key innovation, the Aquark Cube, miniaturises the cold atom chamber by a factor of 100 to make this incredible, complex technology into a simple, portable plug-and-play system.

Andrei's postgraduate research focused on the miniaturisation of quantum systems in the School of Physics and Astronomy before continuing as a Research Fellow in the Quantum, Light and Matter Group. Alex, meanwhile, completed his PhD in optoelectronics focused on maturing early-stage optical technology for commercial use and joined Aquark from another successful Southampton spinout.

Dr Dragomir says: "Quantum technology has for many years offered increased performance over conventional technology, but it has been complicated to achieve and so applications have been limited. Mostly the tech has stayed hidden in research labs around the world; we want to make cold-atoms practical and accessible for wider use.

"By controlling a cloud of atoms at a temperature near absolute zero we can take extremely precise measurements for time, acceleration, gravity and rotation. As such, using this technology we could, for example, create a global navigation system that is accurate without a satellite connection."

Andrei believes the idea could replace bulky, power hungry and complicated sensors that are used regularly in laboratory environments. He adds: "Our core invention is a miniaturised cold atom system that reduces system size from that of an entire lab to the palm of a hand. This huge miniaturisation step will enable the commercialisation of all sensors, accelerating the development and capabilities of quantum technologies. Sensors made with cold atom systems at their core have been shown to significantly surpass their classical counterparts."

Aquark is one of a cohort of the University's most promising startups that unveiled technologies at a Demo Day for the Future Worlds on-campus accelerator on 10th June 2020. The spinout has received investment from angel investors in the Future Worlds network.

James Vernon, Aquark investor and Southampton alumnus, says: "Aquark's unique approach leverages novel research from the University of Southampton with the potential to unlock world-changing opportunities in the quantum market. As investors we are delighted to work with the team on what promises to be a very exciting journey ahead."

Professor Mark Sullivan, Head of Physics and Astronomy, says: "I'm hugely enthusiastic to see our fundamental research in quantum technologies translated into new commercial applications. Southampton's vibrant spirit of entrepreneurship provides an excellent platform to launch successful spinout companies to apply our world leading research to solve ambitious commercial challenges."

Diana Galpin, Director of Enterprise and Knowledge Exchange at the University, says: "It is great to see Aquark Technologies successfully spinout following the recent support from Research and Innovation Services (RIS), Space Research and Innovation Network for Technology (SPRINT), Seraphim Space Camp and EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA). Aquark Technologies is a promising company, and its enabling technology is poised to make a significant impact in the commercialisation of quantum technologies. We look forward to Aquark's continued success."

Ben Clark, Director of Future Worlds, says: "The founders pitching at Demo Day addressed some of the biggest challenges and most exciting opportunities in the world. Investors were impressed by the bold visions and world-changing potential they discovered. The investment in Aquark Technologies is an embodiment of the investors' belief in that potential."

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