Atom laser may help in ultra-precise navigation of space craft

July 14th, 2008 - 11:42 am ICT by ANI  

Canberra, July 14 (ANI): Physicists from Australia have suggested that a laser beam that emits a continuous stream of atoms may one day help ultra-precise navigation of space craft.

According to a report by ABC News, physicists Dr Nick Robins and colleagues from the Australian National University in Canberra are developing the first gyroscope of its kind that emits atoms.

While atom lasers have been made before, research team member Associate Professor John Close said that the team has overcome a major barrier to developing a laser that pumps atoms continuously.

It carries the promise of measuring at enormously increased precision, he said.

On-board gyroscopes are often used as part of a navigation system that can help determine location by keeping a record of in direction have been made since a particular starting point.

One application for this could be in a space craft that is too far away from earth to use a global positioning system, according to Close.

Another application could be in a military submarine that doesnt want to give away its precise location, he added.

Current gyroscopes often use light lasers to precisely measure rotation.

But Close said that atom lasers could provide much more accurate measurements by using matter waves.

The research team plans to build two gyroscopes, which will be identical except that one will be made with a light laser and the other with an atom laser.

They will then test their precision in measuring the rotation of a range of objects.

According to Close, models predict that the atom laser will be 11 orders of magnitude more sensitive, offering 100 billion times more precise measurements.

This degree of precision could make a huge difference when it comes to navigating over the huge distances of space where small errors can have huge consequences, he added.

Such a gyroscope could also be used to measure irregularities in the earths rotation, said Close.

He said that a pumped atom laser could also help measure changes in gravitational and magnetic fields - useful in remote sensing for mining for oil or iron ore.

It could also be used to etch smaller circuits onto nanoscale devices. (ANI)

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