ColdQuanta, a leader in Cold Atom Quantum Technology, in conjunction with BAE Systems, Teledyne Scientific and Imaging, and the University of Oklahoma announced they have collectively been awarded a contract under DARPA’s Quantum Apertures program to demonstrate a complete Rydberg atom-based Radio Frequency (RF) Sensor System. The program aims to demonstrate a system that can receive low intensity, modulated RF signals across a wide spectral range, develop sensor physics and technologies that scale to a fieldable arrayed sensor system, and achieve shot noise limited detection levels that exceed the fundamental limits of classical antennas.
This contract is the latest in a series of awards secured by ColdQuanta from DARPA, with capabilities of the program being used by the U.S. Department of Defense for applications such as military communications, radar, and electronic warfare.
Advancements made by ColdQuanta under the Quantum Apertures program seek to result in a system that has a broad RF spectral range without extensive antenna requirements. The system could allow for RF signal detection at extremely low intensity with a sensor volume that is 1 cm^3 or less in size. RF signals from 10 MHz to 40 GHz could be capable of being received by a single sensor system without changing hardware components or sensitivity roll-off, outperforming current RF receivers, which require multiple front-end systems and antennas to cover this type of frequency range. This capability will be crucial in maximizing the utility of the available spectrum to decongest 5G, and in the future, 6G communications.
The target Rydberg Atom-Based RF Sensor System will also feature an extremely small and lightweight sensor head size that is tetherable by fiber and wires, allowing for maximum portability without sacrificing sensitivity or capabilities. This innovation could pave the way for applications that require sensitivity to much lower intensity RF signals, such as the reception of weak satellite signals, like GPS.
“The Quantum Apertures program aims to develop a fundamentally new way of receiving radio frequency waveforms, which is critical to future Department of Defense initiatives for electronic warfare, radar, and communications,” said Dr. John Burke, Program Manager in DARPA's Microsystems Technology Office via a DARPA published press release.
The goal is for the prototype capabilities of the Rydberg Atom-Based RF Sensor System to be available in 1.5 years and a portable system in 2.5 years.
“As part of this program, ColdQuanta is making many exciting steps towards providing atom-based RF sensing systems that can deliver greater sensitivity, frequency, bandwidth, and range than current solutions available in the market,” said Dan Caruso, executive chairman of ColdQuanta. “In just a few short years, we will have the system ready for deployment and benefiting United States defense initiatives. Moreover, we are already exploring the possibility of leveraging Quantum RF Sensing Receivers in 5G, 6G, and Low Orbit Satellite networks.”