A team of scientists, including experts from the UK Ministry of Defence's Porton Down labs, have devised a sensor that can detect even the smallest changes in gravity. The quantum gravity detector can lead to the creation of scanners that can see through walls and detect underground objects.

The gravity sensor makes use of lasers to freeze atoms in place, then measures and analyzes how the particles are affected by the gravitational pull and mass of surrounding objects. Using the data derived from the device, scientists can come up with a 3D map that shows the varying densities of objects in the area at which the sensor is directed.

The gravity sensor, which was featured on BBC's "Horizon" documentary series on March 23, can also lead to future innovations that are immune to radar detection, jamming or any other sort of interference.

Neil Stansfield, of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory under the Ministry of Defence, explains that the device's resistance to jamming or spoofing is due to its not sending out anything that can be interfered with in the first place.

Stansfield adds that until recently, many believed there would be no practical uses for the research.

"I think until about five years ago, this was seen as laboratory stuff and it will be 20 or 30 years before we can harness this. My view is that it's much closer," he says.

Stansfield remarks that the quantum gravity detector's ability to scan fluctuations in gravity and density gives it the potential to see through objects such as walls. Being able to see underground is an obvious use, he says.

"From a national security perspective, the potential is obvious if you can see caves and tunnels,” Stansfield says, adding that the technology can be also be used by civilians.

Stansfield notes that half of road development projects are in the wrong place because workers do not know where pipes are buried. The gravity sensor would be able to help workers see exactly where the pipes are underground.

The British military's research on controlling gravitational activity has been going on for decades. In the mid-1990s, defense manufacturer BAE Systems began a project that was given the name "Greenglow." The project explored whether elements of science fiction can be turned into reality, such as using antigravity to levitate aircraft and other objects.

Photo: Thomas Rousing | Flickr

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