Mizzou Engineer Explores Challenges, Opportunities of Quantum Radar

December 04, 2020

Graphic of atoms and radio waves.

A Mizzou Engineer was invited to weigh in on the “Opportunities and Challenges of Quantum Radar” for a prestigious magazine published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Jeffery Uhlmann published the paper with a co-author from the U.S Naval Research Laboratory in the November issue of IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine. Uhlmann is an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

Portrait of Jeffrey Uhlmann


The researchers concluded that quantum radar will likely revolutionize several fields—someday.

“There’s no question that quantum in theory can be exploited to give advantages over methods that rely on classical physics,”  Uhlmann said. “The only question is to what extent this advantage can be realized in the near term.”

Quantum radar emits entangled photons—or particles that become intertwined—to extract information about an object. It provides more information than traditional radar, which emits photos in waves that bounce off of an object.

Potential Uses

Quantum radar has several potential uses. In military defense, it can detect stealth technology that currently goes undetected by traditional radar. In medical procedures, quantum sensors could improve tests such as MRIs and X-rays by using less radiation while extracting more information about what’s happening inside the body.

And it can be used to build more powerful computer systems.

“The arms race going on right now is to create networks where quantum information can be transmitted across networks,” Uhlmann said. “When that’s fully realized, it will change a lot of things.”

Right now, computers use bits consisting of 0s and 1s to process information. With quantum computing, systems could perform calculations using additional, complex numbers. That would allow computers to process more data than currently possible. And—in theory—quantum encryption could provide foolproof cybersecurity defense, Uhlmann said.

The paper concludes that quantum radar research is high-risk but with high payoff. The rewards are likely to be rolled out over time.

“Quantum is a completely new technology and will require a considerable amount of effort to get it refined enough before you start seeing benefits,” Uhlmann said. “But right now, there are certain areas where the advantages are significant enough to make it useful in the not too distant future.”

Marco Lanzagorta from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory co-authored the paper. Lanzagorta and Uhlmann also penned a paper in 2018 outlining a new approach to using quantum systems in gravity. The paper, “Theoretical Foundations for Design of a Quantum Wigner Interferometer,” was published in the February 2019 IEEE Journal of Quantum Electronics.