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Low Size, Weight, and Power, High Flux Atomic Source for Scalable Manufacturing




The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.


OBJECTIVE: Develop thermal atom beam sources with a high-brightness atomic flux density (greater than 10^10 atoms/second per 10,000 micrometer-squared cross sectional area) with a minimum total flux greater than 10^10 atoms/second and suitable for atomic sensing, atomic clocks, or other quantum devices of interest to the Department of Defense.  The atom source should be compatible with mass-production techniques with preference being given to devices that can be integrated with established chip-alignment processes and procedures.  The atomic sources should focus on simplicity and should use either no lasers or very simple laser configurations.  The width of the transverse velocity distribution of the atoms emitting from the source should be no greater than 5 meters/second.  Atomic beam sources developed under this topic should achieve the aggressive flux and velocity metrics within a total volume of 250 microliters with a viable path to achieve all metrics within a total device volume of 100 microliters.  Preference will be given to sources that are able to reduce and control the longitudinal velocity as well as the transverse velocity.


DESCRIPTION: Atom-based sensors and clocks have shown tremendous promise in laboratory based experiments.  In addition, atom-based quantum information processing nodes are likely to be necessary for short term quantum memory storage and transduction between different quantum systems.  For clocks and sensors, the signal to noise ratio is typically improved in these devices by using laser cooling to produce a narrow velocity distribution that is within the Doppler width of the atoms or the linewidth of the laser.  Using lasers for cooling is a well established technique but often increases the size and complexity of the device due to optical constraints.  Several types of past and present atomic devices have avoided laser complexity by using filtered thermal atomic beams as the basis of atomic clocks and inertial sensors.  For future atomic sensors that have low size, weight, and power (SWaP) that maintain high performance there needs to be a low-complexity, very compact atomic source with a well defined and narrow velocity range that uses no lasers, or greatly reduced laser paths, to produce a high brightness atomic flux.  Ideally, this device will be suited for scalable manufacturing or fabrication techniques and could be compatible to integrate with established chip alignment processes.  The device should produce greater than 10^10 atoms/second with a transverse velocity width less than 5 meters/second.  The total size should 100 microliters including heaters and vacuum enclosure.  Preference will be given to sources that are able to control the longitudinal velocity as well as the transverse velocity.


PHASE I: Develop necessary plans and concepts to create a high-flux atomic source suitable for atomic sensing, atomic clocks, or other quantum devices while meeting performance metrics highlighted in the objectives of this topic.  The designs and concepts should clearly identify how the required performance metrics will be met while simultaneously meeting the required Size, Weight and Power metrics.  The plans and concepts should include a clear and convincing pathway towards low-cost, scalable production.  This plans should also conceptualize how the atomic source designs could provide advantage over state of the art for a relevant atomic device, such as an atomic inertial sensor, compact atomic clock, or other quantum information processing device.


PHASE II: Instantiate and demonstrate a functioning prototype meeting the required specifications as described in the topic objectives and as represented by finalized plans and concepts initially developed in Phase I.  Perform experiments and analyze results to establish the performance of the device and compare versus the desired topic objectives and demonstrate the adequacy of the device concepts.  Demonstrate the feasibility of low-cost, scalable production of the high-flux atom devices still capable of achieving all performance specs identified in the objectives.  Develop contacts with potential customers and develop a transition plan supporting future Phase III activity.  Provide regular communication to the government sponsor to demonstrate progress and to ensure government understanding of risk mitigation.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Mature the prototype technologies developed in Phase II to include ease of integration into full quantum devices.  It is anticipated that the devices developed under this effort would be geared towards integration into low Size, Weight, and Power thermal-beam sensors, such as those being developed by the Defense Innovation Unit and the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD R&E).  Phase III efforts should focus on integration into full-quantum systems with prospective transition partners.  The contractor will transition the solution for very low Size, Weight, and Power, highly scalable atom sources to a broad range of government and civilian users.



  1. Li, C., Chai, X., Wei, B. et al. Cascaded collimator for atomic beams traveling in planar silicon devices. Nat Commun 10, 1831 (2019).;
  2. Martinez, G.D., Li, C., Staron, A. et al. A chip-scale atomic beam clock. Nat Commun 14, 3501 (2023).;
  3. T L Gustavson et al 2000 Class. Quantum Grav. 17 2385.;


KEYWORDS: low SWaP atom sources; scalable atom sources; atom beam sources; high flux atom sources

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