Scientists demonstrate the quantum radar prototype

IST Austria scientists demonstrate the prototype of the quantum radar

Illustration of a quantum radar prototype. Credit: © IST Austria / Philip Krantz

Physicists from the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have invented a new radar prototype that uses quantum entanglement as an object detection method. This successful integration of quantum mechanics into devices could have a significant impact on the biomedical and safety industries. The research is published in the journal Science advances.


Quantum entanglement is a physical phenomenon whereby two particles remain interconnected, sharing physical traits regardless of how far apart they are. Now, scientists from Professor Johannes Fink’s research team at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) together with collaborators Stefano Pirandola of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of York, United Kingdom, and David Vitali of the University of Camerino, Italy – have demonstrated a new type of detection technology called quantum microwave lighting that uses braided microwave photons as a detection method. The prototype, also known as quantum radar, is capable of detecting objects in noisy thermal environments where classic radar systems often fail. The technology has potential applications for ultra-low-power biomedical imaging and safety scanners.

Use of quantum entanglement as a new form of detection

The operating principles behind the device are simple: instead of using conventional microwaves, researchers trap two groups of photons, called signal and minimum photons. The photons of the signal are sent to the object of interest, while the crazy photons are measured in relative isolation, free from interference and noise. When the photons of the signal are reflected, the true intertwining between the signal and the crazy photons is lost, but a small amount of correlation survives, creating a signature or a model that describes the existence or absence of the target object, regardless of the noise inside the environment.

“What we’ve shown is a demonstration of the concept for quantum microwave radar,” says lead author Shabir Barzanjeh, whose previous research has helped advance the theoretical idea behind quantum enhanced radar technology. “Using the entanglement generated a few thousandths of a degree above absolute zero (-273.14 ° C), we were able to detect objects with low reflectivity at room temperature.”

Quantum technology can overcome classic low-power radars

While quantum entanglement itself is fragile in nature, the device has some advantages over conventional conventional radars. For example, at low power levels, conventional radar systems generally suffer from poor sensitivity as they have difficulty distinguishing the radiation reflected from the object from the background radiation noise found in nature. Quantum lighting offers a solution to this problem since the similarities between the signal and the crazy photons – generated by the quantum entanglement – make the distinction of the signal photons (received from the object of interest) more effective from the noise generated in the environment .

Barzanjeh, who is now an associate professor at the University of Calgary, says: “The main message behind our research is that quantum radar or quantum microwave illumination is not only possible in theory, but also in practice. If compared with the classic low-power detectors under the same conditions, we see that at very low signal photon numbers, the enhanced quantum detection can be higher. “

Throughout history, basic science has been one of the key drivers of innovation, paradigm shift and technological innovation. While still a proof of concept, the team’s research has effectively demonstrated a new detection method which, in some cases, may be superior to classic radar.

“Throughout history, evidence of the concept, such as the one we have shown here, has often been important milestones towards future technological advances. It will be interesting to see the future implications of this research, particularly for short-range microwave sensors.” says Barzanjeh.

The group’s latest author and leader, Professor Johannes Fink, states: “This scientific achievement was only possible by bringing together theoretical and experimental physicists who are driven by curiosity of how quantum mechanics can help push the fundamental limits of detection. But show an advantage in practical situations, we will also need the help of experienced electrical engineers and there is still a lot of work to do to make our result applicable to real-world detection activities. ”


Building a bridge to the quantum world


More information:
“Quantum microwave lighting using a digital receiver” Science advances (2020). DOI: 10.1126 / sciadv.abb0451

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Institute of Science and Technology Austria

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Scientists demonstrate quantum radar prototype (2020, May 8)
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from https://phys.org/news/2020-05-scientists-quantum-radar-prototype.html

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