Enhancing collaboration between Norwegian industry and universities in quantum physics sensors could be of great benefit to society. These sensors can open up new possibilities in a variety of industries, including agriculture and mineral extraction.
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The potential of quantum computers has been the subject of much discussion. However, not everyone is aware of the already well-established, practical applications of quantum physics that directly relate to Norwegian companies and industry.
Quantum physics effects can be harnessed to develop highly sensitive sensors capable of measuring phenomena such as magnetic fields,1 as well as alterations in the Earth's structure, motion, and gravitational fields.2 These advancements have direct relevance in the Norwegian industry, particularly in precision measurements for tasks like land and seabed surveying aimed at mineral and resource extraction.
Thus, an increased focus on cooperation between Norwegian industry and universities on quantum physics sensors is a win-win situation for society.
The study authors noted, “Traditional sensors are limited by the sensitivity of the detection methods, but the new techniques could potentially far exceed such limitations.”
While quantum computers hold the promise of revolutionizing future information technology, there is no time better than now to leverage the capabilities of quantum physics to achieve high-precision measurements.
Highly Sensitive Measuring Devices
Research endeavors focused on quantum sensors strive to create exceptionally sensitive measurement devices by leveraging fundamental principles derived from quantum mechanics.
Traditional sensors are limited by the sensitivity of the detection methods, but the new techniques could potentially far exceed such limitations.
These measuring devices take full advantage of the wavy nature of matter to measure physical magnitudes such as magnetic and electric fields, temperature, pressure, and gravitational waves.
One such example is the atomic clock, which uses the vibrational frequency of atoms to measure time with extreme precision. Other examples of quantum sensors include magnetometers that can detect small magnetic fields.
Many Fields of Application for Quantum Sensors
Navigation and medical imaging could both be revolutionized by quantum sensors.
The same can be said for fields like mineral exploration and agriculture. In mineral exploration, quantum sensors can be used to detect minerals that are hard to find using traditional exploration methods. This could enable us to search for mineral resources at depths that are entirely different from those that can be accessed.
“These are important issues that the global community needs to consider,” the scientists added.
It would allow farmers to obtain detailed information about soil fertility, crop health, and water use, which could then be used to reduce waste and optimize crop yields.
Providing detailed information on soil and mineral properties, this new type of sensor has the potential to help reduce the environmental impact of these industries, significantly contributing to the green transition.
Quantum Sensors Central to Global Community
These are important issues the global community needs to consider in order to sustainably feed an ever-growing population.
Without a doubt, fundamental research in this area will be crucial. Quantum sensors are only one of many applications where basic research in the natural sciences will be critical to the development of significant technological advances.
Norway Has World-Class Professionals
Norway, one of the richest countries in the world in terms of per capita income, is home to researchers who are global leaders in their disciplines and would be an invaluable contribution to such projects.
In Norway, major industry players such as Equinor and Yara have the financial strength to support the free basic research that is required. The Research Council of Norway also needs to obtain the necessary funding to finance free basic research to a sufficient extent.
Investment in Basic Research Needed
The development of new technologies depends on fundamental physics research. Just take a look at what happened in the 19th and 20th centuries to see how important fundamental physics research was in the development of new technologies.
In the late 1800s, experiments on electromagnetic waves created the basis for employing radio waves for long-distance communication. Technology based on stimulated emission in atoms was later developed in the early 1900s.
A lot of the essential technology we use today has its origins in basic research conducted many decades ago.
Ten years later, experimental readings of electrical resistance in magnets in the late 1980s, without any intention for practical use, revolutionized magnetic storage technology. This is the basis of the enormous storage clouds from Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook.
Meticulous basic research on the transmission of electromagnetic signals through ultra-pure fiber-optic cables also laid the foundation for the world’s most important piece of infrastructure, the Internet.
Although we cannot mention them all, a lot of the essential technology we use today was founded in basic research conducted many decades ago.
Kleiner, R., et al. (2023) Superconducting quantum interference devices: State of the art and applications. IEEE. doi:10.1109/JPROC.2004.833655
Stray, B., et al. (2023) Quantum sensing for gravity cartography. IEEE. doi:10.1038/s41586-021-04315-3