EPSRC logo

Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R019541/1
Title: MCLAREN: Miniaturised Cold Atom Gravimeter for Space Applications
Principal Investigator: Dholakia, Professor K
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Physics and Astronomy
Organisation: University of St Andrews
Scheme: Technology Programme
Starts: 01 October 2017 Ends: 31 March 2019 Value (£): 204,423
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
The overall aim of the present project will be to develop a compact gravimeter demonstrator, test the gravimeters compact

subsystems for space compatibility and establish a development roadmap for space deployment. During the project critical

subsystems will be designed and developed that will address SWaP requirements either during the project, or provide a

clear path to their attainment.

Addressing the limitations of current cold atom sensor designs will not only identify a route to space readiness but

overcome barriers to adoption in the more immediate terrestrial gravimetry markets, and in general identify a route to make

the commercial ambitions of cold atom sensors realisable. This project will output compact and space compatible

subsystems that can form early revenue streams including space compatible drive electronics, signal generators,

miniaturised vacuum systems, fibre networks, optical architectures and wavemeters.

From the specific viewpoint of the University of St Andrews, our part of this project is to exploit the interference of light for a

key aspect of the proposal. The interference of light is an ubiquitous phenomenon due to its wave nature. In particular, light

propagating in a disordered medium undergoes repeated scattering and interference, creating a "grainy" pattern known as

speckle. This is regarded as a randomization process which destroys information contained within the initial beam and is

deleterious to many optical systems. Indeed many engineers study speckle to remove its effect. Intriguingly however there

is recently growing recognition - including key observations by St Andrews - that this complex pattern is rich in useful

information on both the incident laser source and the environment, with startling potential uses. The aim of the St Andrews

team is to use laser speckle and apply it to new forms of measurement and analysis that would benefit the gravimeter

We aim to demonstrate that the speckle patterns can be used to determine the wavelength of the light source. The

advantages of using such speckle patterns are that they are complex, and can therefore embody information in a very

small footprint, offering a departure which can supersede traditional methods for wavelength determination which use one

dimensional gratings and principles of dispersion. Furthermore, this scheme obviates the need for gas cells by using these

speckle patterns to feedback electronically to control and stabilise the output of a laser system. We would stress that very

low noise and locked laser systems are essential to operate and enable numerous cold atom technologies. In particular for

a gravimeter, locking the cooling and Raman lasers at subfemtometer resolution will yield significant advances in accuracy.

Coupling this with a system that is suited to ruggedisation and compactness for space based applications makes all-fibre

speckle based locking methods ideal subsystems for space based applications, and represents a step change for the field.
Key Findings
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Potential use in non-academic contexts
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Description This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.st-and.ac.uk