Quantum sensing promises to vastly improve the accuracy of how we measure, navigate, and explore the world. By providing more accurate data, quantum sensing can significantly enhance the capabilities of current and future technologies, helping us to address real-world problems.

Quantum sensors work by exploiting the quantum mechanical properties—quantum coherence, interference, and entanglement—of light and matter to detect minute variations in magnetic and electric fields, enabling them to measure physical quantities such as temperature and pressure more accurately than current sensing technologies. Quantum sensing technologies have applications in many areas, from medical and climate research to communications and energy.

In February, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), working with colleagues from Sandia National Laboratories and the U.K.’s Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), hosted a Quantum Sensing Workshop. The workshop assessed the status of quantum sensing science and technology and evaluated opportunities for quantum sensing to advance the nuclear nonproliferation mission of the U.S. and U.K. governments. It was sponsored by Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Research and Development (DNN R&D, also known as NA-22), part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

DNN R&D, working with the national laboratories, develops advanced technology in support of the U.S.’s nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear security goals. Quantum sensing applications of relevance to the DNN R&D mission include gravity cartography, seismic sensing, the use of squeezed light, magnetic and electric field sensing, and thermometry.

“As one of the key leaders in DOE’s larger Quantum Information Sciences (QIS) initiative, DNN R&D asked us to lead this workshop along with Sandia National Laboratories to bring together a broad community of quantum scientists who may or may not be focused on nonproliferation,” said John Valentine, Head of Berkeley Lab’s Office of National and Homeland Security.

The hybrid workshop, held from February 14-16, 2023, at Berkeley Lab, was co-chaired by Berkeley Lab’s Thomas Schenkel, Peter Schwindt and Scott Bisson from Sandia National Laboratory, and Neil Gaspar of the AWE, and attracted over 50 in-person and 50-plus virtual participants. The discussions centered around how current sensor technologies can enhance critical performance metrics and how future technologies can be improved for use in applications key to the mission of DNN R&D. These include remote sensing, surveillance, safeguards, nuclear forensics, and emergency response.

A report summarizing the findings and recommendations from the workshop, including a list of priority areas for R&D to support and advance the mission of DNN R&D, will be submitted to the NNSA this summer.

“Quantum sensing is an exciting area where fundamental science creates new capabilities to meet needs in non-proliferation and has relevance to industry and other applications,” says Cameron Geddes, Director of ATAP, “as is the case with new accelerators and other technologies.”

Quantum sensors will play an increasingly important role in our everyday lives. The Quantum Sensing Workshop was another step toward realizing the potential of this transformative area.


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Quantum Sensing Workshop