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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/M508354/1
Title: Development of a cryofree ultra low temperature environment for quantum enhanced sensors
Principal Investigator: Haley, Professor RP
Other Investigators:
Pashkin, Professor Y Prance, Dr J
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Physics
Organisation: Lancaster University
Scheme: Technology Programme
Starts: 01 May 2015 Ends: 30 April 2016 Value (£): 103,092
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
This proposed feasibility study brings together industrial partners from Oxford Instruments and academic partners from

Lancaster University to tackle the problem of bringing to market a user-friendly, compact, portable machine for current and

future commercial applications in quantum technologies that need low-noise, low-temperature, isolated environments in

order to function.

The effects of quantum mechanics are usually masked by noise at room temperatures and in environments that interact

strongly with the systems under observation. Extreme isolation and low temperatures are often used to remove these

nuisances, and the extreme cold and high vacuum provided by dilution refrigerators is therefore an ideal environment for

observing quantum-enhanced behaviour. Oxford Instruments have a longstanding reputation for their expertise in providing

commercial machines that deliver such environments, and the Lancaster University team is highly skilled in exploiting these

low temperatures to manipulate, exploit and measure quantum behaviour.

In this joint endeavour we will develop a new product that will help other users gain access to the ultra-low temperature

environment isolated from its surroundings. Traditional dilution refrigeration has required bulky dewars of liquid helium for

the first cooling stage. New "dry" cryogen-free dilution fridges do not need liquid helium. OI has pioneered this new

technology and is market leader. We will now take the next step of reducing the size and cost of ownership, and increasing

automation. This will increase the uptake of this technology by users in the traditional markets of university laboratories and

research institutes. It will also make it easier for industrial manufacturers to include it as a component in future equipment

and instrumentation that exploit those quantum-enhanced behaviours which require the ultra-low temperature environment.

Examples here are the prototype solid-state quantum computer qubits and information processing devices for secure

communications which are based on the properties of superconducting quantum interference devices that only work at

dilution refrigerator temperatures. Compact, automatic and less expensive fridges will be an obvious benefit in this market.

Further, and as an example of this type of new technology, we will demonstrate that this new product will provide the ideal

environment for new types of sensor technology whose performance is enhanced by quantum mechanics. Here we will

investigate how to go beyond current sensitivity and resolution limits in the sensing of magnetic fields. This is already useful

in a range of in-the-field applications from remote sensing of new oil/gas reserves to medical imaging of the brain and body.

At the moment the state-of-the-art measures the effect of magnetic fields on superconducting junctions that are made from

niobium metal and cooled only to liquid helium temperatures of 4 degrees above absolute zero. By using new cryo-free

technology we will be able to improve sensitivity in two ways. The first is by simply being colder, so that thermal noise is

reduced. The second, more exciting way, is that there are materials which only become functional at these lower

temperatures, and we will be able to investigate new devices made in new ways from these materials. For instance we will

be able to replace niobium with superconducting aluminium, and use nanofabrication techniques to make hybrid

semiconductor/superconductor/normal metal devices. We will also be able to investigate devices which contain graphene,

where the lower temperatures enable electrons to travel much greater distances within the two-dimensional graphene

sheet before being scattered from their path by noise.

The anticipated outcome of our collaboration will be a prototype-ready design for a new cryo-free system that will use

quantum-enhanced sensors to improve the detection of small magnetic fields.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.lancs.ac.uk