The University of Southampton

Quantum experiments in space could unlock 'vast new knowledge and technologies'

Published: 3 September 2021
Running experiments in space could potentially accelerate new discoveries and technologies.

Scientists at the University of Southampton and Queen?s University Belfast are calling for a $1 billion investment to test quantum mechanics in space.

Writing in Nature, the experts say that combining quantum physics and space could deliver 'truly unforeseen possibilities'. The comment piece encourages the scientific, engineering, industrial and political communities to join forces and make the vision a reality.

Professor Hendrik Ulbricht, of Southampton's School of Physics and Astronomy, says: "It is clear that any new technological developments for space have to be made on the international stage, so a strong multinational consortium has to be formed."

He adds: "The University of Southampton with its expertise in optomechanics, transitioning scientific experiments from the lab to real-world application, and its close links to UK space industries could play a major role in this endeavour."

Researchers want to test ever-larger particles for quantum wave behaviour. Doing this in space removes experimental hurdles seen on Earth, such as gravity and noise, meaning larger particles can remain stable for longer as they develop their quantum behaviour.

Professor Mauro Paternostro, Head of the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen's, says: "The scientific legacy of the 20th century is two-fold - on one hand there is quantum mechanics, which has helped us to explain the fundamental principles of the microscopic world. On the other hand, we have the space programme, which has made space exploration a reality.

"If scientists in these two areas were to join together we could deliver truly unforeseen possibilities."

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