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Quantum Technology

At PTB, quantum technologies are a wide and versatile field of activity that encompasses both issues of fundamental research and industrial applications. Both issues form part of PTB's legal tasks. PTB is a world leader in particular with regard to quantum metrology and quantum sensors. Some examples of this top-level research are highly accurate quantum standards for electrical quantities, high-sensitivity sensors for medical applications, microstructured ion traps, cryogenic sensors for the sensitive measurement of magnetic fields, single-photon sources and detectors for quantum radiometry and quantum cryptography, and ultrastable and accurate optical clocks. You can find more information about this topic in the issue of our scientific journal PTB-Mitteilungen on  Quantum technology with atoms and photons (in German only).

In fundamental research, quantum technologies are a fascinating topic, for example when it comes to developing new atomic clocks and designing their future generations. But quantum technologies are also paving the way for novel high-tech applications that will be an integral part of our future, for instance in medicine or with high-sensitivity quantum sensors. The transfer from fundamental research to applications is the task of the new Opens internal link in current windowQuantum Technology Competence Center at PTB. This center will furthermore provide users from industry with an ideal experimenting and learning environment.

Measuring time and frequency with great accuracy is opening the path to far-reaching fields of application in areas such as communications, navigation and geodesy. PTB is investigating and developing novel optical atomic clocks using different, complementary approaches. Within the scope of the pilot project "Optical single-ion clocks for end-users" (opticlock) funded by the BMBF, a demonstrator for a commercial optical clock is currently being developed together with partners from industry and research.

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Ultraweak light signals down to single photons play a central role in optical quantum technologies such as quantum cryptography and quantum communication, but also in applications reaching from observational astronomy to microscopy in life sciences.

PTB is dealing with the metrological fundamentals of the generation and detection of ultraweak optical signals. The objective is to succeed in characterizing non-conventional sources and detectors traceably and with the greatest possible accuracy. The spectrum ranges from metrological research and development within the scope of research projects that PTB is carrying out on its own or at European level to the setting up of calibration services in the field of optical quantum technologies. Moreover, PTB is also actively participating in developing technical standards for optical quantum technologies.

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Quantum simulations and quantum computers have the potential to solve certain problems faster than any conventional computer and thus to open up new applications. One promising platform for this new quantum technology is laser-cooled and trapped ions, which allow their quantum states to be easily manipulated in a targeted and well-controlled manner. For this purpose, novel ion traps and new quantum state manipulation concepts are being developed at PTB.

 

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Electrical quantities that are traceable to natural constants by means of macroscopic quantum effects have great potentials for numerous applications since they can be used universally.

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Cryogenic sensors are based on physical phenomena such as superconductivity at low temperatures. Superconducting quantum interferometers (SQUIDs) allow physical quantities that can be converted into a magnetic flux to be measured. These quantities are primarily magnetic fields and magnetic material parameters, but also electric currents and temperatures. Cryogenic sensors and SQUIDs enable precision measurements in metrology and fundamental research, but they are also used in commercial measuring systems for materials research or applied geophysics.

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At PTB optical and superconducting quantum sensors for magnetic field detection are developed. These sensors can be employed in fields ranging from fundamental physics to biomagnetic and medical applications to geomagnetism.

Optically pumped magnetometers (OPMs) exploit the precession of atomic spins with the Larmor frequency in a magnetic field. This allows detection of small magnetic fields by measuring a frequency. Even lower fields can be sensed by Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices (SQUIDs) based on superconducting thin films. 

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