Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have demonstrated that quantum physics might enable communication and mapping in locations where GPS, cell phones, and radio is not reliable or don’t work at all, such as indoors, in urban canyons, underwater, and underground. NIST announced the technology advance on January 2. The technology may have marine, military, and surveying applications. The NIST team is experimenting with very low frequency (VLF) digitally modulated magnetic signals, which propagate farther through buildings, water, and soil than conventional electromagnetic signals at higher frequencies.
“The big issues with very low-frequency communications, including magnetic radio, are poor receiver sensitivity and extremely limited bandwidth of existing transmitters and receivers. This means the data rate is zilch,” said NIST project leader Dave Howe, AD0MR.
“The best magnetic field sensitivity is obtained using quantum sensors. The increased sensitivity leads in principle to better range. The quantum approach also offers the possibility to get high-bandwidth communications like a cellphone has. We need bandwidth to communicate with audio underwater and in other forbidding environments,” he said.