Military Embedded Systems

Quantum receiver developed by Army researchers detects full RF spectrum


February 19, 2021

Emma Helfrich

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

U.S. Army image.

ADELPHI, Md. Army researchers at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) have developed a new quantum sensor capable of analyzing the full spectrum of radio frequency (RF) and real-world signals, creating new potential for soldier communications, spectrum awareness, and electronic warfare.

Army researchers built the sensor, which can sample the radio-frequency spectrum — from zero frequency up to 20 GHz — and detect AM and FM radio, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and other communication signals, according to researchers.

Called the Rydberg sensor, the system uses laser beams to create highly-excited Rydberg atoms directly above a microwave circuit, to boost and hone on the portion of the spectrum being measured. Officials claim that the Rydberg atoms are sensitive to the circuit’s voltage, enabling the device to be used as a sensitive probe for the wide range of signals in the RF spectrum.

According to DEVCOM, the Rydberg spectrum analyzer has the potential to surpass fundamental limitations of traditional electronics in sensitivity, bandwidth, and frequency range. The Rydberg spectrum analyzer and other quantum sensors have the potential to unlock a new frontier of Army sensors for spectrum awareness, electronic warfare, sensing, and communications as part of the Army’s modernization strategy.


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U.S. Army Research Laboratory

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