The Calcium Ion Frequency Standard project (CIFS)

Covesion are working with partners from industry and academia on the £2.1 million, calcium ion frequency standard (CIFS) project, led by CPI TMD Technologies Ltd and funded by Innovate UK. The aim of the project is to develop a highly accurate, trapped ion quantum clock that is smaller, lighter, more portable and more rugged than current designs. Highly accurate atomic clocks have a wide and expanding range of vital applications and are used in many aspects of our daily lives. From navigation to banking many systems depend on extremely accurate timing.

Dr Andy Astill, Chief Operating Officer at Covesion comments on the need for the research: “Current satellite-based GPS systems are becoming increasingly vulnerable to external influences and attack and consequently many of these systems are now exposed. Investment is required to develop alternatives to the existing technologies that depend on satellite derived timing information making them more independent and robust.”

Andy continues: “Timing systems based on quantum processes such as trapped ions can deliver significantly improved accuracy over currently available commercial systems and are likely to be the solution to the current challenges. These clocks will enable both backup and stand-alone systems to be built. At the moment these systems, which give accuracies similar to an error of one second in 33 billion years, have only been demonstrated in research labs. Due to their complexity, power consumption and environmental requirements, these systems are not portable and are too expensive for widespread deployment and thus we need to develop robust systems which can be used in commercial products. It is our aim that CIFS will deliver a more portable, ruggedized version of the present technology.”

The aim of this project is to improve and industrialize the current calcium ion clock design, reducing the size and weight of the system and to ruggedize it by increasing subsystem integration. This will make it a much more useable product for many systems and will open up a new market for advanced timing devices with a wide range of applications.

Covesion are providing frequency conversion solutions based on their PPLN waveguides for the CIFS project, this will enable the use of commercially available light sources in the system. Covesion are working with collaborating partner, CPI TMD Technologies, the project lead, who are a pioneering company in quantum technology development and ruggedized electronics for defence applications. The research consortium also includes Leonardo, a leading defence system integrator, QinetiQ, the leading Defence Technology company, BT, one of the world’s leading communication services companies, and the University of Sussex.