Quantum sensors have shown great potential in revolutionizing the field of medical examinations and monitoring devices. These sensors, which exploit phenomena at the atomic scale, offer a far higher level of accuracy compared to conventional sensors. Researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute (NBI) have recently made significant strides in overcoming a major obstacle for the development of quantum sensors, bringing them closer to practical implementations.
Monitoring the heartbeat of an unborn child and other delicate medical examinations can greatly benefit from the use of quantum sensors. All life processes involve tiny variations in magnetic fields and tissue conductivity, which quantum sensors are capable of detecting. These sensors have the potential to enable the detection of various abnormalities in a patient while they rest undisturbed. Conditions such as heart anomalies and brain monitoring can be improved or made possible through the application of quantum sensors.
The behavior of atoms, electrons, and photons is described by quantum mechanics. In the context of quantum sensing, the process begins by preparing quantum states of light to be used for reading a signal. The quantum state of light interacts with a probe quantum system affected by the forces or fields that need to be detected. After the interaction, the light carries the information on the measured quantity and can be detected with high accuracy. However, tailoring the quantum probe system to fit the signal of interest remains one of the main challenges. Fully eliminating unwanted noise is extremely difficult due to the effects of quantum mechanics, which introduce inherent uncertainty.
Overcoming Quantum Noise
The arrival of light particles (photons) at the detector introduces uncertainty, known as shot noise, which is a source of quantum noise. Additionally, the transfer of momentum from photons to the probe sensor during the interaction itself also creates quantum noise, known as quantum backaction. The quantum noise originating from the interaction with the quantum world poses a significant challenge in extracting the real signal of interest. However, the NBI research team has developed a method to “hear” this noise, allowing for its removal and enabling the detection of the true signal.
Beyond medical examinations, quantum sensors have the potential to find applications in various fields. Gravitational wave detection, for instance, is an area where quantum sensors combined with gravitational wave antennas may significantly improve existing methods. The detection of gravitational waves, which was originally described theoretically by Albert Einstein, requires more sensitive monitoring techniques due to their weak signal compared to other cosmic signals. Magnetic quantum sensors offer a promising solution to this challenge and could contribute to a deeper understanding of the origin and development of the universe.
The development of quantum sensors has opened up new possibilities in the field of medical examinations and monitoring devices. By harnessing the principles of quantum mechanics, these sensors offer unprecedented levels of accuracy in detecting small variations in magnetic fields and tissue conductivity. The breakthrough achieved by the NBI research team in overcoming quantum noise brings practical implementations of quantum sensors closer to reality. In the future, we can expect to see the widespread adoption of quantum sensors in medical examinations and potentially other fields, leading to significant advancements in our understanding and monitoring of various processes and phenomena.