MacV: Miniaturised Atomic Clocks using VCSEL pump sources

Project title: MacV: Miniaturised Atomic Clocks using VCSEL pump sources

Project value: £1,173,079

Project Partners: Compound Semiconductor Centre Ltd, National Physics LaboratoryCardiff UniversityCompound Semiconductor Technologies Ltd

Project summary: The findings of the UK Quantum Technology roadmap indicate 'the market for quantum timing devices is expected to become a £100 million in 5-10 years, growing to a multi-£100M market in 10-20 years.' Initial drivers will be durable navigation products for defence and aerospace, followed by 'resilient telecomms infrastructure with increased data capacity (5G), research and for time-stamping of financial transactions'.  Coherent population trapping (CPT) based miniature atomic clocks require low power, single mode laser diodes that can be directly modulated at a few gigahertz. 

Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Lasers (VCSELs) are ideal for this application primarily due to their very low power consumption, wide wavelength tuning coefficient, reduced sensitivity to optical feedback, extended device lifetime, and small device footprint. Commercially available VCSELs have linewidths of ~50-100 MHz, and while this can be a problem for many other laser spectroscopy applications, it does not substantially compromise the quality of a CPT resonance.  Conversely, due to the circular beam profile, VCSELs are particularly susceptible to polarisation instabilities; however, there are several novel design modifications that can be implemented to address this issue. Currently, there are no UK sources or any supply chain of reliable and robust VCSELs for miniature atomic clocks and a very limited number of commercial manufacturers globally developing VCSELs at the opimium wavelength for the application (CsD1 – 894nm). Our project will establish a UK strategic capability focussed on the development and volume production of VCSEL laser sources, tailored specifically to support the adoption of miniaturised atomic clock applications