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New detector grant paves way for deep-space comms and beyond


Dr Juna Sathian from Northumbria University, UK. (Image: Northumbria University)

A scientist has been awarded almost half a million pounds to develop a new technology which could transform deep-space communication, radio astronomy, medical imaging and airport security scanning.

Dr Juna Sathian from Northumbria University, UK, has received a grant from the government’s Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to develop a new type of maser (Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) device.

Masers can detect and amplify extremely weak electromagnetic signals without adding additional noise, making them suitable for applications such as sensitive magnetic resonance body scanners, quantum optical coherence tomography, advanced quantum computer components, portable atomic clocks, and radio astronomy devices for deep space exploration.

Until recently masers would need to be produced in very cold conditions, a vacuum, and a high magnetic field. As a result, they are only used in a few specialised applications.

Over the last eight years, Dr Sathian and her colleagues have worked to develop a maser that can operate at room temperature by shining a laser light through organic para-terphenyl crystals doped with pentacene molecules and inorganic diamond crystals with nitrogen-vacancy defects. However, this method is expensive and difficult to replicate in everyday applications.

The EPSRC grant will now allow Dr Sathian to develop a new type of room-temperate maser powered by LEDs.

Dr Sathian said: “Masers have so much potential and could be used in lots of different ways to improve our everyday lives – from improving satellite communications to airport security. I’m delighted to be awarded this new investigator grant from the EPSRC as it will allow me to take my maser research forward, with the aim of producing a maser device which is cost-effective, safe and environmentally friendly."

The EPSRC New Investigator Award scheme aims to address gaps identified in the funding landscape and support researchers in developing their own research vision.

Professor John Woodward, Pro Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Engineering and Environment at Northumbria University, said: “The research being carried out by Dr Sathian into maser technology has been recognised as having huge potential and impact, as evidenced by this successful EPSRC New Investigator grant."


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