WASHINGTON (Agencies): In collaboration with Rydberg Technologies, the U.S. Army has accomplished a groundbreaking achievement—the first-ever long-range radio communication using an atomic quantum receiver. The breakthrough offers promising prospects for developing communication systems that are resistant to jamming and hacking, according to an announcement by the company on Thursday.
A quantum sensor, employed in this context, refers to a receiver or antenna that demonstrates heightened sensitivity to minute changes in electromagnetic fields while consuming minimal energy. The key to this sensitivity lies in Rydberg atoms, specifically cesium atoms with highly excited electrons, resulting in a substantial quantum number indicative of a significant distance between the electrons and the nucleus. This considerable distance equips the atoms with an acute responsiveness to subtle alterations in electromagnetic fields, enabling the detection of radio waves beyond the capabilities of a conventional antenna.
The potential applications of such a sensor are extensive, including the detection of a broader range of wavelengths compared to standard antennas, and increased resilience to electromagnetic interference—a critical concern for the military in anticipation of adversaries with advanced electromagnetic warfare capabilities. The quantum sensor could facilitate the identification of elusive drones or soldiers equipped with sophisticated communication devices, even those employing encryption. Although it wouldn’t decrypt the communication itself, it could aid in locating new communication channels within the spectrum for drones, jets, ships, satellites, and soldiers, even in the presence of intense electromagnetic interference.
This groundbreaking demonstration occurred during the Army’s recent NetModX field experiment and marked the first instance of showcasing this technology in long-range signal transmissions. According to Rydberg Technologies CEO Dave Anderson, the atomic antenna receiver (ARx) achieved radio frequency signal reception and communication at a distance exceeding 1 kilometer during the tests. While further work is required to refine and ruggedize the systems for widespread deployment, the successful demonstration opens new avenues for future military communication technologies. The Defense Innovation Unit partially funded this research and experimentation.