The GPS is a key element in the daily lives of people and businesses around the world. All location-based systems depend on a few tens of satellites orbiting the earth. However, when we are in closed places or underground, the location is lost. Therefore, a group of scientists has created a quantum GPS based on an accelerometer that is able to locate us in those situations.
GPS with a quantum accelerometer: goodbye to the problems of satellite coverage
And this is not a simple prototype that works in the laboratory, but we are talking about a technology that has proven to be commercially viable. The device uses lasers to subject atoms to extremely low temperatures. From there, they measure the response of atoms to acceleration. Thanks to this, it is possible to locate someone in areas with tunnels, tall buildings, etc.
The quantum GPS is marketable and we could see it on boats or planes, but it’s still early to see it on mobile
In current accelerometers, this type of measurement loses precision as distance increases. However, by cooling the atoms, they act in a “quantum” manner, acting both as waves and as matter. Therefore, it is necessary to apply quantum mechanics to describe how they move, allowing the creation of an interferometer of atoms. When the atoms fall, the properties of their waves are affected by the acceleration of the vehicle. With an optical rule, those changes can be measured with great precision.
Although the device can be used commercially, its excessive size prevents start using it on mobile for the time being. Where this kind of quantum compass can be used is by boat, trains and other large vehicles where size, weight, and energy consumption are not a problem, and it is necessary to be able to locate them at all times; even when there is not enough signal.
GPS is responsible for several trillion euros of the European economy, which is why they decided to create their own network of GPS satellites with Galileo to make sure that no external action could leave us Europeans without satellite location. Thus, a system like this could begin to popularize rapidly in countries that do not have their own satellite network.