CurrentNews
Klimaforschung mit Hilfe von Quantentechnologien

Towards climate studies using quantum technologies

European Commission funds CARIOQA project for the deployment of a quantum gravimeter in space with around 17 million euros

The impact of climate change is one of the most severe challenges of the 21st century. It is therefore of high importance to understand the underlying processes and causalities. A powerful tool to gain this vital knowledge on a global scale is the satellite-based observation of changes in Earth’s mass distribution e.g. from melting glaciers or loss of groundwater. The required high-precision measurements are reachable with novel quantum sensors.

Today, the CARIOQA-PMP project (Cold Atom Rubidium Interferometer in Orbit for Quantum Accelerometry – Pathfinder Mission Preparation) under the European Commission’s Horizon Europe program was kicked off with the aim to develop such a quantum sensor for space application. European industry in collaboration with European research institutions will build an engineering model of an accelerometer based on atom interferometry for a Quantum Space Gravimetry pathfinder mission.

Atom interferometry is a powerful tool for high-precision measurements of Earth’s gravitational field. It profits from the quantum properties of atoms that serve as a test mass. The sensitivity of atom interferometers with respect to gravity can be increased using long free-fall times that are available in space. In orbit, these devices can be used to observe global processes like a rise of the sea level with unrivaled sensitivity. However, their adaptation and qualification for space is challenging. The CARIOQA-PMP project will mature these quantum sensors and therefore prepare the ground for future high-precision gravimetry missions in space.

CARIOQA-PMP brings together 16 leading players from five EU countries. These include experts in satellite instrument development, in quantum sensing, space geodesy, Earth sciences and users of gravity field data. The pathfinder mission preparation is coordinated by the French and German space agencies CNES and DLR under CNES lead. The project will run until March 2026 and is funded by the European Commission with a total of nearly 17 million euros.

Scientists from the Cluster of Excellence QuantumFrontiers and the Collaborative Research Centre TerraQ are crucial partners of the consortium. They have unique experience in terrestrial and satellite gravimetry, in atominterferometry, and in the development and control of quantum sensors. The Institute of Quantum Optics of Leibniz Universität is involved in the construction of the prototype, while the Institute of Geodesy will take care of the mission design and the associated development of simulation tools and error models.