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Quantum Limits of Metrology
The department is establishing a new field of work in the area of quantum limited metrology and metrological applications. The goal is to provide new concepts for sensor use in the field as well as in space as robust and reliable systems, especially for atomic interferometry, but also for the sources of future laser interferometers. The same applies to optical atomic clocks with entangled particle ensembles. In addition, ensembles with larger particle numbers will be fabricated specifically for exploration. Coherent manipulation with the goal that the entanglements are not lost is also another subject of the research to be carried out.
One challenge of relativistic modelling is to provide a correct and consistent interpretation of the acquired data. Furthermore, it is necessary to optimize missions, to test and evaluate new mission concepts. Particularly in focus for use in space are the new quantum technologies as well as clocks, which must be modelled relativistically. This is also crucial to evaluate new mission concepts such as swarms of small satellites, by means of which a better spatial and temporal resolution of the Earth's gravitational field can be achieved in the future.
Optical Frequency Metrology
Advances in quantum engineering allow frequency metrology with unprecedented precision. This gained accuracy makes it possible to detect gradual differences in the terrestrial geopotential. Improving the clocks to do this by one or even several orders of magnitude would provide a new approach to the geoid and the precise linking of physical height. This will lay the foundation for a new type of altitude reference system based on clocks that are more stable, reproducible, global, and easy to maintain compared to established approaches.
Satellite Geodesy and Geodetic Modelling
The use of quantum technology and measurement methods is expected to add great value to gravimetric earth observation. The department "Satellite Geodesy and Geodetic Modelling" investigates essential application scenarios for novel quantum sensors as well as new measurement methods, also in combination with classical methods. A crucial role plays the observation and analysis of spatial and temporal variations of the Earth's gravity field in order to be able to sufficiently quantify the mass transport on and in the Earth. These data provide unique information about the relevant processes in the Earth system, e.g. in the context of climate change. Another area of research involves distance measurements to the Moon. Here, new and classical methods are being further developed to perform better tests of relativity and to determine relevant parameters in the Earth-Moon system. In addition, the use of networks of optical clocks in space and on Earth is being explored, from which geodetic reference systems will benefit substantially.
Quantum sensor technology based on matter wave interferometry explores new methods for the development of inertial sensors, which in the future will make it possible to perform high-precision measurements of rotations and accelerations with unprecedented long-term stability. They replace classical test masses with freely propagating matter waves. Their resolution and sensitivity typically scale quadratically with the duration of the free fall. Applications for such quantum sensors with superior sensitivity are terrestrial and satellite gravimetry and gradiometry for Earth observation as well as navigation and exploration.
Quantum Optical Sensing
Laser interferometry is the most precise technology available for measuring distance changes between both close and distant objects, e.g. test masses in gravitational physics and distant satellites. Both were successfully demonstrated for the first time in the LISA Pathfinder Mission and the GRACE Follow-On Mission, both with central contributions from Hannover. The respective applications are the measurement of gravitational waves and the measurement of the Earth's gravitational field for climate research. Following these successful initial demonstrations, laser interferometry is now being further developed for the next generation of satellites. In addition, the development of miniaturized laser interferometric inertial sensors also represents an extremely promising alternative to classical accelerometers and gyroscopes.
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