Atom-based quantum technologies

The Midlands Ultracold Atom Research Centre (MUARC) currently holds a large portfolio of activities geared toward the development quantum technologies based on cold atoms.

The research in Birmingham has a particular focus on optical lattice systems, which provide new interdisciplinary insights into important condensed matter phenomena, for example superconductivity and quantum phase transitions. In Nottingham, work is based largely on atom chips, which offer the finest control over cold quantum gases and give rise to the development of micro-laboratories.

We explore possibilities using quantum simulations, and promote further developments towards quantum information at the interface between quantum optics and cold atoms. An applied theme is the development of quantum sensors for measurements of the highest precision.

Besides fundamental and applied research, MUARC engages in the training of young researchers and knowledge transfer toward our industrial partners.

Research projects

Quantum simulations

Quantum simulations aim at a better understanding of quantum natural processes or systems. By engineering tunable atomic systems to have a behaviour similar to complex quantum systems, quantum simulators will allow us to solve problems which are otherwise intractable.

The central aim of the 2D simulator is to uncover the key processes used by nature to balance quantum and thermal effects in an optimized manner, with the long term vision to create bio-inspired quantum technologies. Using ultracold atoms in two-dimensional optical lattices, we will simulate and help elucidate high efficiency energy transport in photo-pigment complexes.
The quantum magnet project explores a new pathway in the area of dipolar quantum gases by focusing on magnetic interactions. Placing ultracold rubidium atoms in a very low magnetic field environment, we can control long-range interactions, with a view to study novel many-body effects, create magnetic monopole excitations or perform quantum gate operations.

Quantum optics and information

Using the interaction between light and atoms, we can tailor the quantum state of light to create squeezing or entanglement. This opens the door to quantum information processing with light and optical measurement beyond the shot noise limit.

The quantum optics team
The ring cavity project studies the quantum and nonlinear optics of cold atoms in a high-finesse optical ring resonator. The collective strong coupling between atoms and light is of interest for fundamental physics studies and future applications in sensing and metrology.

Quantum sensors

MUARC is heavily involved in the development of the next generation of quantum sensors. After decades of fundamental research, atom interferometry has matured to the point where we can envision practical applications. With our partners, we are developing new robust and portable atom-interferometric devices which can be taken out of the lab. From testing fundamental theories in microgravity to discovering what lies under Stonehenge, our research brings cold-atom technology to real-life scenarios.

iSense is a European project coordinated by Birmingham. It aims to develop a technology platform for integrated cold-atom sensors. It includes the development of a demonstrator, a portable gravimeter capable of producing an absolute measurement of g in the field.
GGtop aims at a mobile atom-interferometer-based gradient sensor as well as a noise and terrain model, including visualisation software, that is precise enough to detect objects such as buried chests or water pockets. Future uses might include oil and mineral exploration, climate research, or monitoring of carbon-capture.
MatterWave is a European project developing novel atom-trap concepts in order to use atom interferometry with quantum degenerate gases for rotation sensing. Birmingham leads the miniaturisation and the integration of key components such as the laser system and the vacuum chamber.
The clock project aims to build a mobile Strontium optical clock. Ultimately this machine will feature the latest innovations in metrology, such as optical interrogation, optical trapping at the magic wavelength and optical-to-radiofrequency bridging by frequency comb, all in a package allowing the clock to be transported from lab to lab.
Cold atoms in space. MUARC contributes to a number of European programmes aiming to develop the use of cold atoms in microgravity. In SOC II, we are building a space atomic clock prototype, while the goal of QUANTUS is to realise atom interferometry in space with degenerate quantum gases. Finally, we represent the UK in STE-QUEST, the ESA candidate mission designed to answer fundamental questions with atom quantum sensors in space.


We are training the next generation of quantum scientists. Through a number of European Initial Training Networks (ITN), we are preparing our students and young researchers to tomorrow's jobs in academia and in the industry. Our trainees get a diverse research experience both working on our projects and with our European academic and industrial partners.

The ITN QTea project, managed by Nottingham, is aimed at preparing a cohort of young researchers for the emerging challenges in quantum technology development and applications across academia and the industry. The scientific scope of the network focuses on the physics of modern quantum sensors based on precision measurements of inertial forces, electromagnetic fields, and time.
FACT (Future Atomic Clock Technology) is an ITN coordinated by Birmingham which trains a cohort of PhD students to become experts in frequency standards. The project covers the latest in optical clock technology and integrated devices.

Knowledge transfer

Besides our many academic collaborators, institutional and industrial partners participates in our projects and training networks. They help us train our young researchers, develop technological solutions to our most difficult problems, and translate our ideas to real-life applications.