Quantum Imaging

Quantum imaging aims to revolutionise conventional imaging technology, helping us to detect even tiny objects in hazardous, dark conditions, and even around corners!

Revolutionising biomedical imaging

Modern healthcare has been transformed by technology; from X-rays and MRI to cancer screening and personal monitoring. The healthcare of tomorrow needs to further advance these existing technologies while providing new imaging systems for health and life science.

Researchers are developing new optical cameras that could replace modern-day MRI and endoscopy equipment, including the creation of endoscopes the width of a human hair.

In the field of microscopy we are looking at cameras that can detect subtle differences in tissue and other biological materials advancing tumor detection. More speculative work is seeking to detect single photons at a range of different wavelengths, allowing the efficacy of certain optical cancer treatments to be optimised with minimal side effects.

Shaping the future of transport

Researchers are developing intelligent transport systems which combine sensing and imaging with advanced information and communication technology to improve the safety, efficiency, and security of transport infrastructure, whilst reducing its impact on the environment.

Part of these new systems are cameras which can track objects around corners and 3D imaging technology capable of providing images through hard-to-see environments such as heavy rain, snow or fog. These technologies can contribute to advanced traffic management systems, which integrate traffic data, cameras and speed sensors to improve traffic flow and incident detection.

Researchers are also developing cameras and sensors targeted at increasing the safety of our transport infrastructure. Intelligent sensing and imaging systems can deliver improved scanning of goods in logistic operations, intelligent crowd monitoring and management at transport hubs, remote scanning of temperature for passengers, stand-off identification of dangerous substances as well as monitoring of emission levels at junctions and in cities.

Tackling climate change

Researchers have developed a range of imaging solutions that address major areas of climate impact. These include seeing gas emissions such as methane and hydrogen, structural health monitoring within challenging environments, and enabling better product longevity for renewable energy sources.

Reducing methane leaks in the atmosphere is one of the fastest ways to prevent climate change. With a warming effect of nearly 80 times that of carbon dioxide, methane, commonly referred to as natural gas, is the second greatest greenhouse gas contributor to climate change.

Methane is vital to several processes across society, including the production of Hydrogen, a key ingredient in achieving net zero. To continue using methane safely, monitoring for leaks is essential.

Methane gas, invisible to the human eye, is detectable using specially designed infrared cameras, where sensors are extremely expensive and have a limited supply. Research teams, in partnership with industry, have developed several detectors based on quantum science to extend our accessibility and sensitivity to non-visible wavelengths of infrared and ultraviolet. By providing society with the tools to measure our greenhouse gas emissions, we can identify and immediately resolve the greatest contributors to climate change, today.


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What are we doing in the UK?

The UK National
Quantum Strategy

The UK government has a well developed National Quantum Strategy.  One of five quantum missions announced  in December 2023 is to ensure that by 2035, there will be accessible, UK-based quantum computers capable of running 1 trillion operations and supporting applications that provide benefits well in excess of classical supercomputers across key sectors of the economy.

The UK Quantum Technology Hub in Quantum Enhanced Imaging

The UK Quantum Technology Hub in Quantum Enhanced Imaging (QuantIC) is a centre of excellence for research, development and innovation in imaging. QuantIC brings together world-leading quantum technologists at the Universities of Glasgow, Bristol, Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt, Imperial College, Southampton and Strathclyde.

The UK National Quantum Technologies Programme

Launched in 2014, and backed by the Government’s £2.5bn National Quantum Strategy, the NQTP builds on a decade of experience to enable the UK to be a leading quantum-enabled economy by 2033, with a world leading sector, where quantum technologies are an integral part of the UK’s future digital infrastructure and advanced manufacturing base, driving growth and helping to build a thriving and resilient economy and society.

Frequently asked questions

Confused about what quantum imaging is all about? These FAQs might answer your question!

What is a quantum imaging?

Quantum imaging utilises advancements in quantum physics to image objects beyond what is possible in classical optics. Examples of quantum imaging include ghost imaging, imaging with undetected photons, and sub-shot noise imaging.

What can quantum imaging be used for?

Quantum imaging is used for healthcare, defence and security, intelligent transport systems, space and to tackle climate change. New developments and research are producing imaging systems that can see in 3D,with improved resolution and near perfect noise rejection through fog and smoke and even inside the human body.

What are photons?

A photon is the fundamental particle of light and it takes many millions of these to form an image in a conventional camera. Camera sensors have been developed that can form images from fewer than one photon per camera pixel. Reducing the required light level means that images can be created without damaging the object and such capabilities have applications in the imaging of delicate specimens which are sensitive and easily damaged by light. These new sensors improve the imaging of light sensitive biological samples.

What is quantum 'ghost' imaging?

Ghost imaging is a technique when an image is formed from light that hasn’t physically interacted with the object to be imaged. Instead, one light field interacts with the object and a separate light field falls onto the imaging detector. Ghost imaging functions by means of the spatial correlations between these two beams. The detector measures photons that have not passed through the object and is known as a ‘ghost image.’ Ghost imaging has the potential to allow the imaging of an object with low levels of light.