Clyde Space collaboration will create ‘cold atoms’ in space

Clyde Space and Teledyne e2v are working on a project to create ultra-sensitive ‘cold atoms’ in space, an advance with benefits that include improved environmental monitoring.

Clyde Space Cubesat
Clyde Space Cubesat

Laboratory experiments have shown cold atoms can be used as ultra-sensitive sensors capable of mapping tiny changes in the strength of gravity across the Earth’s surface.

That will now be replicated in space through the Clyde Space-Teledyne e2v partnership with the Cold Atom Space Payload (CASPA) mission, the world’s first free-flying on-orbit demonstration for cold atom based science missions.

The technology is based on new developments in quantum technology, which have resulted in the ability to cool atoms close to absolute zero with lasers.

Applications for instruments based on this technology include more accurate monitoring of changes in polar ice mass, ocean currents and sea level, the ability to monitor underground water resources and discover new underground natural resource deposits which are currently not detectable. Improving the ability to monitor Earth systems will help in detecting and predicting earthquakes and floods.

The technology – destined for space on board one of Clyde Space’s 6U CubeSats – will also be used for deep space navigation and for providing higher precision timing sources in space.

“Quantum technology is giving us new abilities in a wide range of markets and applications,” said Trevor Cross, ‎group chief technology officer at Teledyne e2v. “Our partnership with Clyde Space is representative of the collaboration required to commercialise the technology and really maximize the benefits of Quantum in industry.”

Teledyne e2v is also working with research partner Birmingham University on the project, which is funded with £827,782 from Innovate UK and includes technology from project partners Gooch & Housego, XCAM, Covesion and Southampton University, which has received £239,369 in EPSRC funding for its part in CASPA. EPSRC also provided £311,594 to Birmingham University to participate in the project, which runs until February 2019.