Quantum physics could be applied to communications, helping to map areas where mobile connectivity struggles to reach, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have suggested.
They claim that quantum radio technology could enable communications in areas such as urban canyons, underwater and underground, areas that are hard to service cost effectively with wireless communications using current technology.
Currently, satellite-based GPS technology, in particular, struggles in areas where there's water, soil or building walls. So, it can't really be used in submarines or underground activities.
GPS signals also struggle indoors and in cities where there are lots of skyscrapers. Equipment used by soldiers, who need access to global positioning and wireless technology, can also be affected due to electromagnetic interference.
The researchers have been looking for solutions and have spent time testing low-frequency magnetic radio. The latter can travel through building materials, water and even soil at a rapid rate.
Submarines already use this technology for communications, but the researchers said it doesn't offer significant capacity for transferring audio or video.
"The big issues with very low-frequency communications, including magnetic radio, is poor receiver sensitivity and extremely limited bandwidth of existing transmitters and receivers. This means the data rate is zilch," said project leader Dave Howe.
When quantum sensors are added to the picture, though, things could change significantly. "The best magnetic field sensitivity is obtained using quantum sensors. The increased sensitivity leads in principle to longer communications range," he explained.
He added: "The quantum approach also offers the possibility of higher bandwidth communications. We need bandwidth to communicate with audio underwater and in other forbidding environments."
Their new technique involves the detection digitally modulated magnetic signals, which are messages made up of digital bits 0 and 1.
Howe continued: "Atoms offer very fast response plus very high sensitivity. Classical communications involves a trade-off between bandwidth and sensitivity. We can now get both with quantum sensors."
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