Shielding macroscopic quantum experiments

Short Description

Starting point / motivation

Testing the relationship between quantum and classical physics in space and, in particular, quantum decoherence has been identified by ESA as an area of interest in the course of ESA's call for New Science Ideas. To do so and to test quantum coherence with massive physical systems, they have to be isolated from decohering effects like blackbody radiation and gas collisions.

The PI of the present project proposal is also the PI of an international effort towards performing such tests of quantum physics in space. He has been the lead proposer of the MAQRO mission proposal in response to ESA’s M3 call for a medium-sized mission in 2010, for an updated proposal in response to ESA’s M4 call in 2015, and for a corresponding adapted proposal in response to ESA’s 2016 call for New Science Ideas.

The proposal for this last call was successful, and Rainer Kaltenbaek now heads an international team into a study to be conducted in ESA’s Concurrent Design Facility (CDF) in the first half of 2018.

In the MAQRO mission proposal, it has been suggested to achieve the required isolation of macroscopic quantum systems by shielding the sensitive region from thermal radiation and allowing direct outgassing to deep space. This approach was analysed in two finite-element studies in collaboration with Airbus Defence and Space (ADS).

Contents and goals

Here, we intend to analyse this approach in greater detail and more independent from ADS by using the COMSOL finite-element analysis suite. On the one hand, we want to perform an independent study using a different software tool than used in earlier studies, where the analyses were performed at ADS using ESATAN.

On the other hand, we want to be able to vary model parameters to investigate their influence on the temperature achievable, and we want to investigate the achievable residual vacuum within the experimental region.

In addition, we plan to investigate potential benefits from combining the passive cooling approach with an active one to see whether this could result in better vacuum and lower environment temperatures. Moreover, we want to investigate the feasibility of closing the experimental region to deep space to protect the instrument from potential micro-meteoroid impacts as they were observed in the LISA Pathfinder (LPF) mission.

Expected results

The proposed project "QuantumShield" also presents a unique opportunity to train a master student in quantum and space technology, and to give him or her the opportunity to collaborate with ADS.

Moreover, the present project presents the opportunity to maintain and to build Austrian expertise in an exciting new field: quantum technologies in space.

Project Partners


Austrian Academy of Sciences - Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information


Contact Address

Austrian Academy of Sciences
Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information
Dr. Rainer Kaltenbaek
Boltzmanngasse 3
A-1090 Wien