Q-CTRL opens new front with quantum sensing division


James Riley
Editorial Director

Sydney-based quantum startup Q-CTRL has officially launched its new quantum sensing division, which it says has already grown to become one of the largest in the world.

Showcasing its quantum sensing capabilities for the first time at the Army Quantum Technology Challenge (QTC) in Adelaide this week, the company says its sensing tech has an increasing role in real-world applications from navigation to climate monitoring and long-range weather forecasting, to space exploration and defence.

Q-CTRL says its tech provides a unique take on quantum sensing and is developing a new generation of ultrasensitive “software-defined” quantum sensors for use in measuring gravity, motion and magnetic fields.

Quantum sensing and earth observation. Photo: Q-CTRL

The company says it has enabled capabilities that would be otherwise impossible through a combination of advances in system design with new modes of operation that are unlocked by advanced software, AI automation and signal processing.

The Q-CTRL sensing team had grown to 15 members in the past year, reflecting a growing demand and an opportunity to deliver sovereign capability to Australia and AUKUS allies. The division is led by Dr Russell Anderson who left his academic professorial position to become Q-CTRL’s Head of Quantum Sensing.

The Army QTC is part of the more than $60 million of publicly disclosed quantum sensing contracts awarded to Q-CTRL’s sensing team and its partners over the last 18 months. This includes a project with AI-based robotics and navigation outfit Advanced Navigation on hybrid classical-quantum inertial navigation, and with both Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI) and CRC-P projects developing space-qualified quantum sensors.

“Q-CTRL’s mission is to make quantum technology useful. From day one we knew that quantum sensing provided a near-term opportunity to translate our specialization in quantum control into value capture and new sovereign capabilities,” said Michael Biercuk, CEO and founder of Q-CTRL.

The Army QTC brings teams of Australia’s quantum scientists and engineers together to compete and demonstrate how quantum tech can deliver Army new capabilities. Last year Q-CTRL ‘won’ the competition based on work accelerating the performance of quantum computers with its specialized infrastructure software.

This year, the Q-CTRL sensing team will demonstrate how similar concepts can be applied to the challenge of detecting sources of electromagnetic radiation (as could be emitted by an enemy communications or command-and-control system) using its own ‘software-defined’ atomic magnetometers.

Sensing is a $400 billion global market spanning multiple verticals, with remote sensing currently valued at about $19 billion and growing at a 10 per cent compound annual rate. The specific quantum sensing market opportunity is identified as 2 per cent to 4 per cent of this market by 2040, according to the CSIRO.

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