Real-world applications for atom interferometric quantum sensors

The technology could ultimately be used to improve reservoir utilisation in the oil and gas sector

The Gravity Delve project, funded by Innovate UK, brings together academics from the UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing, which is led by the University of Birmingham and Nemein Ltd, with the aim of investigating the benefits and challenges associated with using quantum gravity sensors down boreholes.

Quantum gravity sensors based on atom interferometry are already being developed for use in the oil and gas sector. Quantum cold-atom sensors designed to operate on the surface will be able to detect and monitor objects beneath the ground better than any current technology. Gravity Delve aims to understand the benefits that borehole deployable quantum gravity sensors could have.

Nemein is developing borehole deployed equipment primarily focussed on energy harvesting and environmental sensing. The new technology will enable the quantum sensor developed by the University of Birmingham to venture out of the lab and into the extremely harsh downhole environment.

Borehole applications to be investigated in the project will include carbon capture and storage (CCS), and hydrocarbon and geothermal reservoirs. Existing techniques for reservoir optimization include conventional microgravity, electrical and nuclear logging. These techniques however are limited by sensitivity, resolution and cost. Gravity Delve is investigating how a commercially relevant quantum device could replace or enhance current technology to optimize CCS reservoirs, minimize the environmental impact from hydrocarbon extraction, and enhance the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy such as geothermal. The project will develop a design for an innovative borehole quantum cold-atom gravity sensor, as well as the associated harsh environmental packaging and ancillary equipment.

This will lead to the first cost effective and efficient method deep borehole quantum sensor deployment. (

Read more.