Quantum sensors could let autonomous cars ‘see’ around corners


High-precision metrology based on the peculiarities of the subatomic world

Quantum computers get all the hype, but quantum sensors could be equally transformative, enabling autonomous vehicles that can “see” around corners, underwater navigation systems, early-warning systems for volcanic activity and earthquakes, and portable scanners that monitor a person’s brain activity during daily life.

Quantum sensors reach extreme levels of precision by exploiting the quantum nature of matter—using the difference between, for example, electrons in different energy states as a base unit. Atomic clocks illustrate this principle. The world time standard is based on the fact that electrons in cesium 133 atoms complete a specific transition 9,192,631,770 times a second; this is the oscillation that other clocks are tuned against. Other quantum sensors use atomic transitions to detect minuscule changes in motion and tiny differences in gravitational, electric and magnetic fields.

There are other ways to build a quantum sensor, however. For example, researchers at the University of Birmingham in England are working to develop free-falling, supercooled atoms to detect tiny changes in local gravity. This kind of quantum gravimeter would be capable of detecting buried pipes, cables and other objects that today can be reliably found only by digging. Seafaring ships could use similar technology to detect underwater objects.

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Micro-scallop robots can swim through your blood, eyeballs


A micro-scallop robot is only a fraction of a millimeter in size.

Simplicity is important when designing robots on the micro or nano scale (like, small enough to fit inside your body). There just isn’t room for complex motors or actuation systems. There’s barely room for any electronics whatsoever, not to mention batteries, which is why robots that can swim inside your bloodstream or zip around your eyeballs are often driven by magnetic fields.(Video)


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Electric power without transmission lines

Hundreds of companies are investing in electricity transferred through magnetic fields.

Nikola Tesla, the inventor and rival to Thomas Edison, in the early 1900’s built the Wardenclyffe Tower, a 187-foot-high structure on Long Island, which he said could transmit electricity wirelessly. Financier J.Morgan backed the Wardenclyffe Tower. The project failed, and Tesla ended up broke. (In an earlier experiment in Colorado, Tesla had wirelessly lit up 200 lamps over a distance of 25 miles, but pedestrians witnessed sparks jumping between their feet and the ground, and electricity flowed from faucets when turned on. Oops.)



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Cylinder hides contents and makes them invisible to magnetic fields

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This cylinder which hides contents and makes them invisible to magnetic fields.

Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona researchers, in collaboration with an experimental group from the Academy of Sciences of Slovakia, have created a cylinder which hides contents and makes them invisible to magnetic fields. The device was built using superconductor and ferromagnetic materials available on the market…

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Turtles Use Earth’s Magnetic Fields as a Navigational System

Loggerhead_turtle tracking

A Loggerhead turtle with tracking device.

Scientists Nathan Putman and Ken Lohmann have determined that turtles can navigate across entire oceans by using the earth’s magnetic fields to determine their longitude and latitude. To test this hypothesis, they used a special water tank that permitted them to alter the magnetic fields inside. They then placed the turtles in the tank to see how they would respond to simulations of different locations…

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