DLR Inaugurates Institute for Quantum Technologies

COMPASSO project – new generation of clocks for time measurement and position determination. (Credit: DLR)
  • The DLR Institute for Quantum Technologies in Ulm develops such technologies and applies them together with partners from industry.
  • In this way, DLR supports the development of know-how in a key technology that is important for Germany as a business and science location.
  • Quantum technologies, for example, enable long-term secure communication and very precise navigation via satellite.
  • The DLR Institute was officially inaugurated at a digital event on May 27, 2021.

ULM, Germany (DLR PR) — Whether secure communication or reliable navigation by satellite – many space applications rely on high-precision instruments. Technologies based on quantum mechanical effects enable previously unattainable levels of accuracy and safety. The Institute for Quantum Technologies of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) develops such technologies and brings them to prototype maturity with industry. The institute in Ulm thus bridges the gap between basic research and application. The DLR Institute was officially inaugurated at a digital event on May 27, 2021.

“Quantum technology will change our lives. It will form the basis for new innovations from DLR, which will find their way into the economy through technology transfer. This is our contribution to strengthening Germany as a science and business location, ”explains Prof. Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla, Chairwoman of the DLR Executive Board. “We have found an ideal research environment here in Ulm, embedded in local and regional scientific and technical structures that have been successfully implemented over many years. The establishment and development of new DLR institutes is inconceivable without extensive support from the federal government and the federal states. “

“Quantum technologies are outstanding key competencies for the future. We want Germany to catch up with the world’s best again in the next few years. Quantum technology in the field of earth observation, satellite communication and navigation will play an increasingly important role in the future. The fields of application of our satellite infrastructure affect important sovereign security interests and are the essential basis for the functioning of our highly developed industrial society. It will therefore be important to modernize our satellite infrastructure quickly and consistently in order to secure our technological sovereignty in this field and avoid dependencies, ”emphasizes Thomas Bareiß, Parliamentary State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Economics. “I’m glad, that with DLR we have a strong partner by our side with whom we can master these challenges and the competition. I am particularly pleased that the DLR site in Ulm is playing a central role in this. That will mean a noticeable impulse for the region and the whole of Baden-Württemberg and strengthen the high-tech location.”

Challenges: miniaturization and space suitability (Credit: DLR)

“We want Baden-Württemberg to be at the forefront when it comes to value creation with quantum technologies. The DLR Institute for Quantum Technologies is an important transfer bridge between research and industry. It makes an important contribution to creating new industrial pillars in the country with quantum-based hardware and software solutions. Therefore, of course, I am particularly pleased that Ulm is now to play a key role within DLR in the implementation of the federal government’s quantum computing initiative, ”says the Baden-Württemberg Minister of Economic Affairs Dr. Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut.

More than 40 researchers are currently working on topics in the field of quantum technologies. Around 200 employees will be added in the next few years. Together with the DLR Institute for Satellite Geodesy and Inertial Sensors in Hannover and the Galileo Competence Center in Oberpfaffenhofen, the Ulm Institute plays a pioneering role in this area. It supports the development of know-how in a key technology that is important for Germany as a business location.

“In the future, quantum technologies will be used in metrology and geodesy as well as in the operation of communication satellites,” explains Prof. Hansjörg Dittus, member of the DLR Board of Management for Space Research and Technology. “The accompanying research is also carried out in Ulm in order to make quantum technologies usable for the economy. One way of doing this is through DLR technology transfer. “

New generation of watches for precise time measurement and position determination

A central project of the DLR Institute in Ulm is the COMPASSO project. The focus is on the development of optical clocks. This next generation of atomic clocks uses quantum physics and offers even greater precision in time measurement – at least by a factor of a hundred. The technology can be used on satellites, for example, and make navigation systems much more powerful and reliable. Because position information can be accurate to one to two centimeters. Particularly precise position determinations are necessary for many future-oriented applications: for driverless cars, the navigation of ships, autonomously flying air taxis or transport drones. Sensors on satellites also benefit from extremely precise time determination,

The main challenge for the team from the DLR Institute of Quantum Technologies is to make this technology suitable for space travel: It has to be as small, robust and durable as possible. That is why special lasers and novel materials such as high-tech ceramics are used. These deform only minimally when the temperature changes. In order to test the system in earth orbit, DLR is planning the COMPASSO space mission of the same name on the International Space Station (ISS) for 2024 . On the outside platform Bartolomeo the instrument should be tested for a year. The partners in the project include the companies Airbus, Menlo Systems, SpaceTech and Tesat Spacecom.

Long-term secure: quantum communication and quantum cryptography

Technological breakthroughs in the field of optical components and their miniaturization also enable advances in the field of quantum communication and quantum cryptography. Both are further focal points of the new DLR Institute in Ulm. Quantum computers could crack many of the encryption algorithms currently in use. Quantum cryptography uses quantum physics to generate secret keys. It can be used in satellite communication, but is also suitable for protecting communication via fiber optic cables. In this way, data should be made safe for a long time – regardless of advances in quantum computers and mathematics. Long-term, reliable encryption is essential in order to protect critical infrastructure such as supply networks, state institutions, Protect banks or healthcare. DLR works closely with industrial companies to develop the required technologies and make them ready for the market.