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How quantum physics can help solve India’s water crisis

India is the world’s largest extractor of groundwater. It is an essential source for irrigation, as well as rural drinking water. Water scarcity in India is an ongoing challenge – but could advances in quantum physics be part of the solution?

Existing devices that measure gravity, called gravimeters, are currently used to find groundwater and mineral deposits. However, these methods are not as accurate as they could be. 

At The Australian National University (ANU) Research School of Physics researchers use an atomic gravimeter so precise that it can measure changes in gravity caused by someone walking into the room.

To better manage groundwater resources, India is looking towards this technology to monitor and manage groundwater movements in real-time. However, measuring gravity at this level of accuracy with individual atoms is tricky.

To overcome these limitations, researchers from the ANU, Canberra; the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune; the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Bhopal; and The University of Queensland will draw on the physical phenomenon known as quantum entanglement.

“When atoms become entangled, they conspire to rearrange themselves in a way that is much less random to how individual atoms arrange themselves,” explains ANU’s Dr Simon Haine.

“By introducing quantum entanglement, we can increase the sensitivity of our atomic gravimeter by a factor up to 1000.”  

Researchers will develop and test a quantum gravimeter to accurately monitor groundwater movements, allowing for better management of the vital resource. The project is funded by the Australian Government’s Australia-India Strategic Research Fund.

Banner image: Researchers at ANU Research School of Physics' lab

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