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So, what are quantum sensors? Quantum sensors are devices that can measure extremely small changes in an environment by taking advantage of quantum phenomena. They use the smallest amounts of energy and matter to detect and measure tiny changes in time, gravity, temperature, pressure, rotation, acceleration, frequency, and magnetic and electric fields. 

These sensors have been commercially available for more than 50 years in various forms, such as the MRI machine, which tracks flips in the magnetic spin of individual hydrogen atoms to peer into a body. However, states that recent progress in the field suggests that such sensors will soon bring a revolution in measurement and signals intelligence—possibly by making it far easier to detect submarines, spacecraft, and underground facilities. 

The greatest achievement of these quantum sensors in recent years has been ultra-precise timekeeping. It allows us to make repeated observations and combine them, an approach that is sometimes called “super resolution.” Imagine how photographers take four or eight photos of the same scene and then combine the images using software. Better timing allows the same kind of thing with all kinds of measurements.

Additionally, quantum sensors can also measure the shape and gravitational field of the Earth to within a centimeter. Such sensing can be useful both for mapping out underground mineral resources and for precisely calculating the trajectories and accurate locations of ballistic missiles and other munitions, something militaries have long sought out. 

The uses for these quantum sensors are truly endless in the technological fields.