May 21, 2022

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Created a quantum gravimeter that maps environments with atomic precision

To find groundwater Underground Scientists can analyze the exact marks those compounds leave in the planet’s gravitational field.

But it is not easy to get these measurements; Very sensitive tools are needed and even the smallest vibrations can change measurements. But now a group of physicists have demonstrated an hourglass-like gravimetric device that, they think, helps overcome this challenge.

They are called gravimetric devices gravityIt is not new, per se. They are used for everything from discovering physical constants to mapping landscapes. Modern and state-of-the-art gravity counters use atoms. If you pulse two atoms with a laser and send them to different places, a gravitational field It will affect the two in slightly different ways. You can measure this gravitational field by superimposing these two atoms and discovering differences in their quantum properties.

But when physicists try to increase the resolution in an effort to see objects as small as a few meters, such as underground tubes and passages, traditional gravity sensors are ineffective. Soil differences, temperature changes, and even slight magnetic fields can eliminate them.

Here the new sensor takes a different approach. Researchers call it the hourglass. Each “bulb” contains one a cloud of atoms to rubidium Trapped in a magnetic cage, it is launched through a laser. The double clouds They mean that the device actually has two separate gravimeters. As a result, researchers are able not only to measure the gravitational field, but also to measure it at two different heights.

It’s not the most sensitive quantum gravity sensor in the world, but it’s one of the first to leave the lab. In a real-world test, this hourglass-shaped gravimeter discovered a service tunnel buried under a road in Birmingham, England.

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As far as we know, our instrument was the first to detect a true underground civil engineering objective outside of a laboratory environment.Study co-author Kai Bong, a physicist at the University of Birmingham in the UK, told Space.com. “This is truly a breakthrough in making quantum technology practical.”

Useful for discovering new worlds

The new gravimeter could become a very useful tool for mapping subsoil properties.

The use of these gravimeters is not limited to Earth. In fact, the European Space Agency (ESA) is already interested in getting them into space. ESA’s next generation of Earth observation satellites could carry sensors like these, which measure things like groundwater, ocean circulation, and how those things are affected by climate change.

It can be extended to explore other planets in the solar system, and to understand more about their internal structure“, He said bong at Space.com.

Sending gravity counters to study other worlds is nothing new. In 2012 , GRIL’S MISSION NASA sent a A couple of spacecraft To map the gravitational field of the Moon and separate its surface.

s interest ESA From a sign, next-generation gravimeters can be used to find groundwater on the Moon or on other worlds.