GPS technology is so omnipresent that you can hardly remember a day when you could not just take your phone and find out exactly where you are in the world. However, this is actually a much newer development and one that can be denied to us in the future. The GPS relies on a network of satellites that can be damaged, blocked, or destroyed. You also can not get a good GPS lock when you are underground or around tall buildings. Maybe there's an alternative. Imperial College London and engineering company M Squared have developed a new quantum accelerometer that can provide precision locations without an external system.
Navigation with the accelerometer is possible for some time. Your phone has an accelerometer that tracks movement and orientation. However, it is impractical to use this navigation technology to a large extent. The accelerometer measures the movement so you can use it to find out where you are if you have a good reference point. Microsoft released the in-navigation application called Road Guide on Android a few years ago it does this. The problem is that the accelerometers are not perfect – they lose their thumbs here and there, and these mistakes change over time until you know where you are.
The Quantum Accelerometer from Imperial College London could solve this problem because it is incredibly accurate. While the device is nominally portable, it is not very compact or easy to use. Quantum mechanics says that all matter has the properties of waves, but it is very difficult to observe in everyday life. Ultra-cool atoms exhibit more pronounced wave properties, which is the key to quantum accelerometer.
Imperial College London used a powerful M Squared laser system to cool the cloud of atoms to very low temperatures until a visible wave is visible. As the atom drops through the acceleration accelerator chamber, the wave property is influenced by motion. The researchers used a laser interferometer to track the perturbation in quantum waves, which allows the system to track motion with great precision.
S0, the accelerometer knows when it moves with a high degree of accuracy and therefore knows where it is at any point on the site where it started. Currently, the system measures movement on one axis, but it should be possible to scale the design to measure all three axes and three directions for full navigation.
The team says the device is now available on ships or trains without GPS access. However, it is now too much to adjust to your phone. Lasers just make it too big. You may one day have your quantum accelerometer in your pocket, but not soon.
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