Quantum technologies: Thales and SYRLINKS to develop next-generation atomic clocks for civil and defence applications
Thales and SYRLINKS, a French company based in Rennes, Brittany, have signed an ambitious multi-year contract with the French defence procurement agency (DGA) to develop a new generation of very small, high-performance atomic clocks.
Code-named CHRONOS, these new quantum clocks will meet the requirements of numerous civil and military applications. Thanks to their very high stability (error of less than 1 second in tens of thousands of years), defence electronics equipment will be able to operate when a GNSS1 signal (GPS, Galileo, etc.) is unavailable, for example due to hostile jamming.
Working with the procurement agency, the partners will help safeguard France's technological sovereignty in GNSS-denied positioning, guidance, navigation and ECCM-protected, encrypted military communications. In civil applications (5G network synchronisation, transport, energy, etc.), the CHRONOS quantum clocks will deliver unprecedented price/performance to French and international customers.
Large swathes of the modern economy now rely on satellite synchronisation, and all the world's major powers have their own GNSS satellite constellations (like Europe's Galileo system) to guarantee their independence and protect their sovereignty.
GNSS technology provides the precise time reference for critical infrastructure such as 4G/5G networks, Internet, air and rail transport, energy networks, global banking transactions, high-frequency trading, satellites, etc., which would quickly fail if the signal were unavailable. In view of this high level of dependency, back-up systems are needed to ensure that our civil and military infrastructure can continue to operate even if the GNSS timing signal is unavailable.
Thales's industrial facility in Vélizy-Villacoublay and the Thales Research & Technology centre in Palaiseau, both near Paris, have the right combination of industrial capabilities and talent to manufacture the atomic and optical core of these future quantum clocks.
SYRLINKS, based in Rennes, Brittany, specialised in satellite radiocommunications, radionavigation systems and miniature atomic clocks, and its products were selected to equip 650 satellites for the American operator OneWeb. The company will develop the electronic brain of the CHRONOS clock and guarantee its high-precision timing function.
The CNRS will provide critical scientific support for this project via its SYRTE (Observatoire de Paris) and Femto-ST (Université de Franche-Comté) joint research units.
1Global Navigation Satellite System