Atom Interferometry

High-tech sensors could guide vehicles without satellites

This device could usher in GPS-free navigation

Quantum gravity and inertial sensors will be crucial for next-generation inertial navigation due to exceptional sensitivity.

In GPS-denied environments, gravity aided navigation assists inertial navigation systems through terrestrial map matching, and high-performance inertial sensors reduce reliance on GPS. However, the miniaturization and ruggedization of quantum gravity and inertial sensors are still needed for multiple platforms operating under harsh conditions. The broad and deep applied science and engineering expertise at Sandia has enabled a multidisciplinary approach to a novel solution that addresses this national security challenge.

Key Capabilities

The extreme miniaturization of quantum gravity and inertial sensors requires the development of novel technologies and architectures for sensor subsystems.

Sandia has developed a compact atom interferometer sensor head using a grating magneto-optical trap towards high data-rate quantum sensing in a dynamic environment. This sensor head is based on a custom titanium vacuum chamber, a microfabricated grating chip, fixed optical components, and a laser system compatible with photonic integrated circuits.

Sandia researchers have also designed and tested a multi-channel photonic-integrated-circuit laser system implemented with silicon photonic single sideband modulators for atom interferometry applications.

Additionally, using alumina membrane photonics, Sandia researchers have demonstrated a membrane magneto-optical trap and a photonic atom trap integrated platform towards the miniaturization of guided atom interferometers with evanescent fields.


Patents Under Examination

  • “Passively Pumped, Polycrystalline Ceramic High and Ultra-High Vacuum Chambers” (SD14819).
  • “Compact Laser Source with Frequency Modulators Generating Multiple Lines” (SD14828).
  • “Compact Grating-Based  Magneto-Optical Trap Sensor Head for Cold Atom Inertial Sensors in Dynamic Environments” (SD 15234).
  • “Hybrid Inertial Navigation System and Method” (SD 15236).
  • “Compact Atom Interferometry Inertial Navigation Sensors with Tailored Diffractive Optics” (SD 15237).
  • “Suspended Waveguides on Membrane and Needle Structures towards Atom Trap Integrated Platforms” (SD 15238).
  • “Guided Cold Atom Inertial Sensors with Membrane Integrated Photonics on Atom Trap Integrated Platforms” (SD 15257).