The US military is looking for advanced portable atomic clocks it says will help bolster secure data routing, build communication systems that are insensitive to jamming and provide more reliable and robust global positioning than current time-keeping systems.
The portable atomic clock research is part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Quantum Assisted Sensing and Readout (QuASAR) program that seeks ro develop techniques to miniaturize and ruggedize high-performance atomic clocks for deployment in the field.
According to DARPA, many defense-critical applications require exceptionally precise time and frequency standards enabled only by atomic clocks. The Global Positioning System (GPS) and the internet are two key examples. Atomic properties are absolute, and do not "drift" or lose minutes over time. In this sense, atoms are self-calibrated, making them ideal for precision sensing, DARPA stated.
Recent years have seen the emergence of advanced technologies that exhibit single-atom-like properties, such as nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) and nitrogen-vacancy (NV) centers in diamond that retain their characteristics even at room temperature, DARPA stated.
The application of atomic control and cooling methods to these solid-state systems will yield a new generation of sensors of extreme resolution and sensitivity, DARPA stated. By employing these new techniques used in current laboratory atomic clocks, military clocks can be improved by orders of magnitude. Such clocks will enable secure data routing, communication systems that are insensitive to jamming, high-resolution coherent radar, and more reliable and robust global positioning, DARPA stated.
QuASAR will develop techniques to miniaturize and ruggedize high-performance atomic clocks for deployment in the field. What DARPA wants to see are ways to reduce the total footprint of atomic clocks to portable sizes, while maintaining high performance. Specifically DARPA wants contractors to:
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