SQUID: China’s Highly Sensitive Submarine Detector

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Chinese scientists developed an affordable and highly sensitive version of a Superconducting Quantum Interference Device (SQUID), according to research published in late 2023.

SQUIDs are highly sensitive detectors used to measure extremely weak magnetic fields, which operate based on the principle of superconductivity where certain materials exhibit zero electrical resistance at low temperatures. Their remarkable sensitivity makes SQUIDs relevant for applications in various fields, including physics research, medical diagnostics, and submarine detection technology.

So far, super-expensive SQUIDs have been affordable for a few powerful militaries and are mainly used in specialized anti-submarine aircraft, but this latest development marks a new era in submarine detection, potentially making the technology more accessible and deployable on drone fleets.

According to Interesting Engineering, the old detectors had a problem with too much interference that made them less sensitive. To solve this, the scientists used a new method called structural optimization to improve the detectors- a method that transformed complicated data into simpler forms, making the detectors more effective.

This research, led by Zhang Yingzi, introduces a simplified design using only one superconducting magnetic gradiometer instead of six, enhancing precision and lowering the price- an innovation that reduces interference and makes them ten times more sensitive. Yingzi claims the design will significantly reduce costs and improve performance, which makes it possible to install the detectors on UAVs on a large scale.

It seems that China is currently trying to be the frontrunner when it comes to this type of technology and is channeling substantial investments into it, ever since researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences pioneered breakthroughs that surpassed the sensitivity of their German counterparts.

This technological breakthrough could shift global military dynamics, giving China an advantage against advanced submarines and impacting areas like the South China Sea. The technology’s undisclosed military applications suggest potential adoption by the Chinese military, further strengthening their capabilities.