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Aquark’s unique technique for generating cold atoms achieved by University of Birmingham 

30 January 2024

Southampton, UK, 30/01/2024:  Scientists from the University of Birmingham have successfully tested a new technique for generating cold atoms, developed by Aquark Technologies. Aquark’s unique laser cooling method, which it refers to as Supermolasses, does not require an applied magnetic field. This will ultimately make cold matter platforms more portable and robust and therefore easier to use commercially. The tests at University of Birmingham are the first time that Supermolasses has been independently achieved and were carried out as part of an Innovate UK funded project, Gravity Array.

Gravity Array, funded by Innovate UK (Project: 10032699), is a collaboration between Aquark Technologies and the University of Birmingham and combines the ground-breaking “supermolasses” atom cloud generation with the expertise in quantum sensing of gravity at the UK Quantum Technology Hub in Sensors and Timing. The project aims to deliver a unique new capability where, breaking with convention, a single laser and control system can be used to operate several low-power sensor heads – enabling sensors to be located in remote or harsh environments, while drastically reducing the cost of the overall monitoring activity. 

Working closely with Dr Chester Camm, Dr Alex Jantzen and Dr Andrei Dragomir at Aquark Technologies, the University of Birmingham team of Mr David Sedlak, Dr Sanaz Roshanmanesh, Dr Yu-Hung Lien and Prof. Michael Holynski were able to generate the first supermolasses not obtained by Aquark Technologies staff, successfully trapping atom clouds without applied magnetic fields.

The team are now continuing to characterise and independently assess the technique, before combining this with other approaches to realise a low-power sensor head with a plan for trials in late 2024. These aim to further demonstrate the Aquark Technologies’ Supermolasses technique and other innovations from the project in a practical setting, with a view to applications in areas such as border control, infrastructure and environment monitoring, covert monitoring, and energy. 

Aquark Technologies Co-Founder and CEO, Dr Andrei Dragomir, speaking about the project said: “Gravity Array is an incredibly exciting opportunity for Aquark as it demonstrates not only our strong desire to collaborate with the best, but also looks to utilise some of the new capabilities that makes our method of atom cloud generation unique and independently verify its benefits.”

Professor Michael Holynski, Principal Investigator of the UK Quantum Technology Hub in Sensors and Timing  and project lead of the Gravity Array project from the University of Birmingham, added: “It is fantastic to see progress on techniques that have potential for reducing the cost of quantum sensor systems. This work, made possible by funding from Innovate UK as part of the National Quantum Technologies Programme, has achieved first steps in validating techniques that could reduce the electrical power and operational needs of quantum sensors. This progresses along the Hub roadmap towards distributed sensor networks over large areas for applications such as environmental monitoring and monitoring of remote or hazardous locations.”

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For further information, please contact:

Kate Grinnell, TFD (Think Feel Do) / +44 (0)7919 250766

About Aquark Technologies 
Aquark Technologies is a pioneering company dedicated to advancing the forefront of cold atom quantum technology, making quantum advancements more accessible and affordable. With expertise in vacuum technology, microfabrication, and laser system development, Aquark is committed to making cold atom systems more accessible and practical. 

About University of Birmingham
Founded in 1900, the University of Birmingham is a globally-ranked, world ‘top-100’ public research and teaching institution and a member of the prestigious Russell Group. The University is characterised by its tradition of research and innovation, both of which have resulted in major breakthroughs, furthering knowledge and improving people’s lives.

About Innovate UK
Innovate UK is the UK’s national innovation agency. We support business-led innovation in all sectors, technologies and UK regions. We help businesses grow through the development and commercialisation of new products, processes, and services, supported by an outstanding innovation ecosystem that is agile, inclusive, and easy to navigate.

About the UK Quantum Technology Sensors and Timing Hub
The UK Quantum Technology Sensors and Timing Hub aims to develop a range of quantum sensor and measurement technologies that are ripe for commercialisation by UK businesses, and, alongside this, it is also looking to train people working within the UK quantum technology community.

Quantum sensors have the potential to be cheaper, lighter, smaller, more sensitive and more energy-efficient than existing, classical sensors. Advances in this area have applications across the board, from healthcare to navigation, to archaeology and everything in between.

The Hub is actively pursuing research towards a range of application areas, with examples including magnetometry systems for brain health, gravity gradient sensors for inspection of underground infrastructure in civil engineering, quantum sensors for navigation, precision oscillators to enable advanced radar systems. 

The Hub is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, as part of the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme.

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