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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R002789/1
Title: QT-Shield: Compact lightweight high performance magnetic shielding enabling portable & miniaturised quantum technology systems
Principal Investigator: Bongs, Professor K
Other Investigators:
Attallah, Professor MM
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: School of Physics and Astronomy
Organisation: University of Birmingham
Scheme: Technology Programme
Starts: 01 March 2017 Ends: 28 February 2018 Value (£): 83,929
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
Magnetic shielding is an essential component of all second generation quantum technology (QT) systems necessary to eliminate magnetic interference and enable quantum behaviour to be observed. For accurate operation magnetic fields must be reduced to <150 microGuass with <0.1% variation. A particular challenge for quantum systems is shielding of low frequency (<40Hz) and DC magnetic fields. Best available materials are soft magnetic alloys, such as MuMetal. Due to limited shielding design knowhow, manufacturers currently adopt a costly trial and error design approach. Shield geometries are kept simple (spherical / cylinders) as these are known to provide reliable conduction surfaces; whilst material thickness is kept high to ensure reliable shielding. Existing shielding is thus heavy and bulky, limiting the advancement of QT towards portable and miniaturised systems. Shielding is uniquely designed for each application, often with low production volume. Production is currently through hand machining in workshops; thereby limiting production sale-up and creating a vulnerability to low wage economies abroad.

The QT-Shield solution will apply advanced shielding design principles for the realisation of high performance compact-lightweight magnetic shielding delivering a >50% reduction in weight and >40% reduction in area compared to conventional approaches. Such shield designs will be achieved by:

- making the shields more compact so that less shield area (and thus material) is required; and

- minimising layer thickness to only that which is required (at that point) to achieve the target magnetic field environment at the site of interest.

High performance shielding will be maintained, despite deviations from near spherical / cylindrical geometries through advanced 'idealised' shielding geometries and clever use of multi-layer systems.

The compact shielding designs will be made through the integration of advanced manufacturing techniques:

- 3D Printing - enabling accurate direct printing of fully (individually) customisable complex shielding shapes

- 5-Axis milling - enabling tailored reduction of material thickness across the entire shielding area

3D printing and 5-Axis machining are fully automated manufacturing processes enabling shielding production to transition towards mass customisation (high volume production of unique shield shapes).

The purpose of the QT-Shield project is to demonstrate feasibility for: i) use of advanced design principles for the realization of lightweight, compact and high performance magnetic shielding suitable for QT applications; ii) manufacture of advanced designs using 3D printing and 5-axis machining; and iii) use of the advanced shielding designs for protection of a quantum gravity sensor demonstrator system.

Project outputs will include:

- Market study identifying the most important opportunities & requirements for compact magnetic shielding

- Demonstration of feasibility for achieving >50% weight and >40% volume reduction whilst maintaining reliable shielding performance

- Demonstration of feasibility for the manufacture of complex shielding designs using 3D printing and 5-axis milling techniques

- Prototype compact lighting shielding system demonstrating feasibility for protection of an existing quantum gravity sensor system

High performance, lightweight, fully customisable magnetic shielding not only addresses the emerging market needs of quantum devices (enabling the realisation of compact portable and miniaturised devices); but also important needs across a broad range of existing market sectors (opening new market applications within aerospace, defence, space, automotive, electronics etc...). Furthermore, knowledge based advanced shielding designs also provide clear differentiation within the market and, when combined with highly automated manufacturing process enabling mass customisation at low cost, support the long term competitiveness of UK industry.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.bham.ac.uk