Quantum technology was one of the big buzz phrases at this year’s Laser World of Photonics in Munich, which took place from 26 to 29 June.
The UK Quantum Technology Hub in Quantum Enhanced Imaging (Quantic) had brought a number of imaging project demonstrators to the trade fair, including a methane gas camera being built in collaboration with M Squared Lasers, and a low-cost 3D imager developed with aerospace and defence company Leonardo.
The prototype methane sensing imager is a single-pixel infrared camera with an estimated cost of less than £500 once produced in volume. This is far cheaper than conventional infrared cameras with InGaAs pixel arrays.
Single-pixel cameras differ from traditional cameras in that the image sensor is replaced with a pixelated transmission mask encoding a series of binary patterns. The light is measured with a single photon detector and, combined with knowledge of the patterns, the image can be deduced through data inversion.
The technique has the potential to fill a niche for low-cost, non-visible imaging; it uses the same technology as that found in data projectors.
The M Squared Lasers device operates at a resolution of 32 x 32 pixels at 20 frames per second, and can produce real-time video of methane gas, sensing at 1.65µm, at a distance of 1 metre.
Oil and gas, construction, food processing, and water treatment would all benefit from a low-cost, low-power and portable gas detection system; the global gas sensing market is projected to be worth $2.32 billion by 2018.
Quantic and Leonardo’s low-cost 3D ranging camera operates on the same single-pixel camera approach. The camera has a range of 1-10 metres with a depth resolution of millimetre precision at between 1 and 10 frames per second.
Quantic is working with a number of other industrial partners on quantum-based imaging products, most of which are taking advantage of single photon detection to some extent, along with the advances in computing power, according to Professor Miles Padgett, who is leading the M Squared Lasers and Leonardo projects.
Lockheed Martin is another partner, in this case developing a drone-mounted terahertz imager.