Army Researchers Build Quantum Sensor to Sample RF Spectrum from DC to 20 GHz

Army researchers have built a quantum sensor that can sample the radio-frequency spectrum from DC to 20 GHz. It can detect AM and FM, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and other communication signals. A new quantum sensor can analyze the full spectrum of RF and real-world signals, unleashing new potentials for soldier communications, spectrum awareness, and electronic warfare.

The Rydberg sensor uses laser beams to create highly-excited Rydberg atoms directly above a microwave circuit, to boost and hone in on the portion of the spectrum is measured. The Rydberg atoms are sensitive to the circuit’s voltage, enabling the device to be used as a sensitive probe for the wide range of signals in the RF spectrum.

The Rydberg spectrum analyzer has the potential to surpass fundamental limitations of traditional electronics insensitivity, bandwidth, and frequency range. Because of this, the lab’s Rydberg spectrum analyzer and other quantum sensors have the potential to unlock a new frontier of Army sensors for spectrum awareness, electronic warfare, sensing, and communications as part of the Army’s modernization strategy.

The peer-reviewed journal Physical Review Applied published the researchers’ findings, Waveguide-coupled Rydberg spectrum analyzer from 0 to 20 GHz, co-authored by Army researchers Drs. David Meyer, Paul Kunz, and Kevin Cox. The researchers plan additional development to improve the signal sensitivity of the Rydberg spectrum analyzer, aiming to outperform existing state-of-the-art technology.