Space-based quantum experiments

DSC07052The group is a member of the Strathclyde Space Initiative: Space Science and Applications sub-division. We have research activities developing quantum experiments that can be launched on nanosatellite platforms, so-called CubeSats. CubeSats offer an inexpensive and rapid route to space-based operations in a 1 to 10kg fully functioning spacecraft. This is an ideal platform from which to perform an iterative and incremental development programme of advanced space-based quantum technologies and fundamental physics.

DSC07744In collaboration with the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore, we have developed the SPEQS (small photon entangling quantum source) experiment for launch on the QB50 mission on a 2U CubeSat being built by the National University of Singapore. SPEQS (shown on the right) will demonstrate the deployment and operation of a compact, low-power, lightweight, and robust source of entangled photon pairs into low Earth orbit.

The SPEQS experiment has already been tested successfully in two stratospheric balloon launches (shown left) reaching altitudes in excess of 37.5km. In order to verify its operation, an on-board polarization analyser will measure pair correlations and show that they violate a Bell inequality. A followup mission with demonstrate transmission of entangled photons between spacecraft in orbit.

njp484581f1_onlineIn the longer term, new effects may be observed under extreme conditions of velocity and acceleration that could affect our ability to manipulate quantum systems. Such relativistic quantum information effects might be probed by extremely sensitive experiments in near Earth orbit. One such proposal would detect the degradation of entanglement associated with changes of orbit by one half of an entangled Bose Einstein condensate. With rapid miniaturization of the relevant components, this may be achieved with small satellites.