TRUMPF and SICK develop the first industrial quantum sensor

SICK Pty Ltd

Tuesday, 10 November, 2020

TRUMPF and SICK develop the first industrial quantum sensor

The wholly owned TRUMPF subsidiary Q.ANT and sensor manufacturer SICK have signed a cooperation agreement to work together on the development of quantum optical sensors for industrial use. Quantum sensors enable measurements with unprecedented accuracy. The signing was preceded by a successful functional test of the world’s first quantum optical sensor for serial production.

“SICK is expanding its position as a worldwide technology leader in the sensor sector by embarking on the production of quantum sensors,” said Robert Bauer, Chairman of the Executive Board of SICK AG. “Quantum sensors are a key technology for the future of industry.”

SICK will be responsible for application development and sales of the product. As a specialist in quantum technology, the TRUMPF subsidiary Q.ANT will take on production of the measurement technology — and thus the sensor’s core technology.

“Quantum technology is an enormous opportunity for German and European industry,” said Peter Leibinger, Chief Technology Officer at TRUMPF. “This will be the first time that the partnership between our two high-tech companies will involve a product for serial production. The quantum sensor enables highly accurate measurements, and will provide insights that will lead to completely new industrial applications.”

The first use of the new quantum sensors is planned for 2021.

Quantum sensors have hitherto mainly been used in research. For the first time, Q.ANT and SICK have now successfully completed functional tests for an industrial application.

“Quantum technology enables, for example, ultrafast measurements of the movement and size distribution of particles. With industrialisation of these sensors, not just us but Germany — as a high-tech location — takes a major step towards the commercialisation of quantum technology,” said Michael Förtsch, CEO of Q.ANT.

Using laser light, quantum sensors permit highly efficient measurements that would be impossible with conventional processes.

“Quantum technology is the next level for sensors because it shifts hitherto firmly established technical limits,” said Niels Syassen, Senior Vice President R&D at SICK and responsible for the project there. “Using quantum effects, additional details can be perceived from signal noise where, up to now, no specific signals would have been measureable. This enables the measurement of particles that are about two hundred times smaller than the width of a human hair.”

The quantum sensors will initially be used for analysing substances in air.

Quantum sensors could in future become everyday equipment in various industries: for example, they could be used in civil engineering to visualise underground structures before construction work begins; in the pharmaceutical industry they could make it easier to determine the best composition of tablet powder; in the electronics sector circuits could be inspected through surfaces; and highly accurate measurements could be made in industry in general. The market for quantum sensors could grow steadily with industrialisation. Experts at Germany’s National Academy of Science and Engineering (Acatech) estimate the worldwide market volume of industrial quantum sensors at about €1.1 billion by 2023.

Image: The quantum sensor from Q.ANT and SICK will be tested with customers for the first time in 2021. Photo: TRUMPF.

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