A recent scientific breakthrough in a Ministry of Defence research project is paving the way for scanners that could see underground or through walls. A team of British scientists, including experts at the MoD’s Porton Down labs, have developed a new device that can detect tiny fluctuations in gravity.

A team of scientists including experts at the MoD’s Porton Down labs have developed a new device that can detect tiny fluctuations in gravity.

The device revealed in a BBC Horizon documentary could one day also lead to sensors that are immune to jamming or stealth technology designed to beat conventional systems like radar.

The technology could also lead to new ways of navigating that would replace GPS satellites which are vulnerable to enemy attack, as well as having many civilian uses.

Neil Stansfield, of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, said the new quantum gravity detector works by using lasers to freeze atoms in position and then measuring how the tiny particles are affected by the gravitational pull of nearby objects.

By studying how the particles are influenced by the mass of nearby objects, scientists can then draw a 3D map highlighting how density changes nearby.

Mr Stansfield said one potential use would be to allow people to see underground.

He said: “Seeing underground is an obvious one. From a national security perspective, the potential is obvious if you can see caves and tunnels.”

“There is also huge potential for civilian applications.” He said currently half of road works are in the wrong place because workers have no idea where pipes are buried. The new sensor would be able to accurately map what was underground.

The device could also detect changes through objects, such as walls, effectively allowing operators to see through walls.

He said the detector could not be jammed or spoofed like many current technologies

He said: “We are not sending out a wave of any form, we are detecting the gravitational influence on an object. There’s nothing that we are sending out that can be interfered with.”

Until recently many had believed there would be no practical applications from similar quantum research for decades, he said.

“I think until about five years ago, this was seen as laboratory stuff and it will be 20 or 30 years before we can harness this. My view is that it’s much closer.”

The documentary reveals British defence scientists have conducted research into controlling gravity for decades. In the mid-1990s, BAE Systems began a project code-named Greenglow to look at whether antigravity could be used to levitate objects and aircraft.

At the same time, Nasa was running similar research Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Programme in the attempt to find revolutionary new methods to power space flight.

Image Credit: Scott Chasserot/BBC
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