Covesion Secures Innovate UK Grants for Ground-Breaking Quantum Research

Date: 08.06.2020

Covesion Ltd (Southampton, UK), global manufacturers of Periodically Poled Lithium Niobate (PPLN) crystals, has recently secured funding for two prestigious projects from Innovate UK, the UK’s Innovation agency. Since being established in 2009, Covesion has grown to become a world-renowned expert in the field of PPLN crystals and their utilisation in research and industry. Covesion’s products are used for a variety of photonics applications, enabling the efficient conversion of light wavelengths.

The funding from Innovate UK will help us research the use of these crystals in different industries and for different applications,” comments Dr Corin Gawith, CTO at Covesion. “We know there is huge potential for these PPLN solutions to be used in the quantum technologies market for example, which is set to see massive growth over the next few decades. The funding from Innovate UK will allow us to explore and subsequently manufacture products to be used in more real-world applications outside of the laboratory.”

One of the Covesion projects funded by Innovate UK is Space-certified Nonlinear Optical Rugged Quantum Lasers (SNORQL). The key objective for this 18-month project is to produce a higher power PPLN crystal for use with Rubidium Atom Traps to generate very sensitive gravity measurements. This technology has practical applications in areas such as identifying what infrastructures are hidden under a road before starting civil engineering projects. Rubidium Atoms Traps can also be used for a number of climate monitoring activities such as measuring water tables, remote surveying and ice mass monitoring.

Covesion will be collaborating with the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult in Wales and STFC RAL Space, the UK's national laboratory advancing the understanding of space and our environment, at Harwell, Oxfordshire. The project partners aim to deliver a fully tested and packaged ‘plug and play’ unit. RAL Space will test the unit using pre-compliance, space qualification testing using vibration, thermal cycling and radiation tests.

Higher power (>1W) PPLN waveguide systems are not currently commercially available.” says Corin. “We aim to have a ubiquitous, rugged, compact and cost-effective unit which can be purchased off-the-shelf by customers working in the field.

Developing systems for instruments designed for use in space is particularly challenging in that they must be robust enough to work for thousands of hours without requiring any maintenance and yet be able to withstand the harsh environment.

By liaising with our collaborative partners on this project and certifying that the technology can be used in space, this will automatically qualify the unit to be used in most other earth-based industry applications. You could use this device in the back of a truck, in the middle of a field, on a ship for example without any issues.

There is a lot of interest in quantum technologies currently and we have been very fortunate to have worked on projects in the past supported by Innovate UK such as CASPA, the Cold Atom PayLoad,” continues Corin.

CSA Catapult’s Head of Photonics, Joe Gannicliffe said: “SNORQL is an important step towards the standardisation of Quantum components. CSA Catapult is pleased to support this work through resilient optical design and advanced integration techniques to build a rugged package designed to survive the harsh environment of Space.The processes and experience developed will also benefit the advanced packaging of future compound semiconductors.”

The second Innovate UK funded project Covesion are currently working on is Mid-IR Upconversion Single-photon detection (MIRUS), which aims to develop and deliver a highly innovative mid-infrared single-photon detector demonstrator system. The ability to generate and detect single photons is a critical and enabling aspect of quantum technology with applications in telecommunications and LIDAR making it possible to encode and transmit secure information, create lidar systems that can see around corners, and quantum imaging systems for enhanced situational awareness in the most obscured environments. Covesion will be collaborating on the MIRUS project with strategic partners Fraunhofer UK, who have a strong track record in the commercialisation of quantum technologies and BAE Systems, a global defence, security and aerospace company.

Corin concludes: “Having led technology development for Covesion since the company was founded, it’s great to see us continually moving into new markets and leading the field in the innovation of new products and solutions. The company continues to see very strong growth and we have been able to employ two new engineers to assist with these innovative projects thanks to the funding provided by Innovate UK. These two 18-month projects will extend our knowledge and capabilities beyond our current applications and customer base. We are very excited to see where this takes us.”