World-leading quantum sensor technology developed by atomic physicists from the Australian National University (ANU) has received $12 million in funding from two of the country's major deep-tech venture capital firms, Blackbird Ventures and Right Click Capital.
The capital will be deployed by Nomad Atomics to accelerate the commercialisation of its field-deployable quantum gravimeters and accelerometers, which were developed by co-founders Kyle Hardman, Paul Wigley and Christian Freier.
"Transitioning quantum technologies from the lab environment to reliable operation in the field is challenging, and has hampered their commercialisation and widespread use," says Hardman, who is also Nomad Atomics CEO.
"We founded Nomad to address this challenge, by developing robust sensors with reduced size, weight and power requirements to enable real world applications - taking technology that would take up entire rooms in research labs and placing it all in a self-contained 20x20x30cm box to produce the world's first survey-style absolute gravimeter."
Nomad's chief operating officer Paul Wigley claims nothing like this technology has ever been done, "especially not on this timescale".
"We custom designed and built nearly everything, and because of all that, today we have the most highly integrated, smallest sensor of its type in the world," he says.
Nomad's unique quantum sensors will be utilised to solve the hardest sensing problems in some of the world’s largest industries such as resources, energy, defence and space.
"Our devices will allow users to explore for deeper and small mineral deposits, allow for high resolution resource exploration from drones, allow for the more efficient and safe production from our underground mines, reduce the risk of drought by mapping and monitoring the flow and charge of aquifer systems, directly and cost effectively monitor the total mass of sequestered CO2, and increase navigation certainty in GNSS denied scenarios by providing zero drift and zero bias accelerometers," says Christian Freier, CTO.
The company claims its sensors have "billion-dollar potential" for target markets. Even Nomad’s smallest target market, resource exploration, devotes more than US$1 billion globally purely for gravity exploration alone, and that is just a small portion of the US$50 billion-plus resource mapping, monitoring and optimisation industry.
As the world is beginning its transition to clean energy, these markets are growing at incredible rates, with 14 per cent year-on-year growth in smart mining technologies reported in the 2022 Smart Mining Technologies Market Outlook by Future Insights.
Nomad has already begun working with major international companies across several markets including mineral exploration, mine monitoring, geodesy, and utilities.
"These markets have huge potential and we have seen a remarkable desire from companies across all sectors to utilize our sensors,” says Hardman.
At ANU, the Nomad founding team’s research focused on critical aspects of building deployable sensors for defence including building multi-field sensors and making robust sensors and supporting infrastructure for navigation systems.
This technology placed Hardman, Wigley and Freier at the forefront in deployable quantum systems.
"We truly believe that this new sensing hardware has the potential to change how we view and interact with our world and helping make this available to people outside of physics labs is very exciting,” says Wigley.
While Nomad has been operating in Canberra since founding in 2020, with this investment the team will be relocating to Melbourne to scale its manufacturing and operations.
The company expects to hire 20-plus new roles for its next phase, which will involve scaling its field ready sensor fleet, building two new prototype sensors with focuses on airborne exploration and inertial navigation, and expand into the markets of the future such as CO2 sequestration and navigation.
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