Radio waves

Quantum receiver capable of detecting the full spectrum of radio waves

A quantum sensor has been developed that can analyze the full spectrum of radio frequencies, which could open up new options for military communication.

US Army researchers built the quantum sensor, which can sample from zero frequency up to 20 GHz, detecting AM and FM radio, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and other communication signals along the way.

Dubbed the “Rydberg sensor”, it uses laser beams to create highly excited Rydberg atoms directly above a microwave circuit, to amplify and refine the part of the spectrum being measured. The Rydberg atoms are circuit voltage sensitive, allowing the device to be used as a sensitive probe for the wide range of signals in the RF spectrum.

“All previous demonstrations of Rydberg’s atomic sensors have only been able to detect specific small regions of the RF spectrum, but our sensor now operates continuously over a wide frequency range for the first time,” said researcher Dr Kevin Cox. .

“This is a very important step in proving that quantum sensors can provide a new and dominant set of capabilities for our soldiers, who operate in an increasingly complex electromagnetic battlespace.”

The Rydberg spectrum analyzer has the potential to overcome the fundamental limitations of traditional electronics in terms of sensitivity, bandwidth and frequency range, the researchers said.

This could allow it to unlock a new frontier of army sensors for spectrum awareness; electronic warfare; sensing and communications, as part of the Army’s modernization strategy.

“Quantum component-based devices are one of the Army’s top priorities to enable technical surprise in the future competitive battlespace,” said Army researcher Dr. David Meyer.

“Quantum sensors in general, including the one shown here, offer unparalleled sensitivity and precision in detecting a wide range of critical signals.”

The researchers plan further development to improve the signal sensitivity of the Rydberg Spectrum Analyzer, aiming to surpass existing state-of-the-art technology.

“A considerable physical and engineering effort is still required before the Rydberg analyzer can fit into a field-testable device,” Cox said.

“One of the first steps will be to understand how to maintain and improve device performance as the sensor size is reduced. The military has become one of the leading developers of Rydberg sensors and we expect more cutting-edge research to come to fruition as this futuristic technological concept quickly becomes a reality.

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