Science 3 min read

Austrian Scientists Built the World's First Quantum Radar

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sakkmesterke /

Entanglement is one of the most bizarre and most studied quantum phenomena. And, the fact that we have our first image of it doesn’t make it any less spooky.”

According to the principle of entanglement, a pair of particles can bind together or be entangled. Meaning, if one particle undergoes a change of quantum state, its entangled particle adopts the same state immediately.

The potential application of entanglement in quantum communication has been demonstrated using photons to transfer information securely.

One area that could benefit from the use of entangled photons is remote-sensing technology or a quantum radar.

Quantum Radar Based on Entangled Photons

Tracking objects using entangled photons sounds like a no-brainer concept. Nothing in the known universe travels faster than light photons, which also transmit information in real-time when in an entangled system. It was just a matter of time before we get to think of building quantum radars.

In a quantum radar system, the first photon is kept in the device while its twin is sent as microwave frequency to potential target objects.

As the second photon encounters an obstacle, its change of state is reflected by the static photon immediately, regardless of the distance separating them. Then, the computer would calculate the object’s distance, speed, size, and other characteristics.

Last year, the state-owned China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC) claimed it had built the “first quantum radar” that would render stealth aircraft technology obsolete.

In Canada, researchers at the University of Waterloo are also working on a $2.7m project to develop a quantum radar system capable of spotting stealth aircraft and missiles. Geomagnetic storms and solar flares in the Candian Arctic makes detection less effective using conventional radars.

Now, the MIT Technology Review reports that “quantum radar has been demonstrated for the first time” by a team of researchers from the Institute of Science and Technology Austria, (IST Austria).

To create pairs of entangled microwave photons, the IST Austria team used a superconducting device called a Josephson parametric converter. They call the photon they beam toward the object of interest the “signal photon,” and the one stored in the device the “idler photon.”

The system can detect objects with less background noise and at low temperatures as compared to existing radar technologies. The team thinks their quantum radar’s low energy levels could lead to a host of applications beyond military technology like noninvasive medical imaging.

“Our experiment shows the potential as a non-invasive scanning method for biomedical applications, e.g., for imaging of human tissues or non-destructive rotational spectroscopy of proteins,” said the researchers.

Read More: To Protect the Arctic, Canada is First to Test Quantum Radar in the Field

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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