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Seeing the Underground: Quantum Gravity Sensors

Next generation of gravity sensors capable of detecting deep-underground hazards such as sinkholes, mineshafts and landslides more precisely

Published: 8th March 2021
Seeing the Underground: Quantum Gravity Sensors


Mine-shafts, pipes, cables and utility infrastructure, and deeper down, old foundations, tunnels, sewers, and sinkholes pose geotechnical risks for infrastructure and brownfield developments. Millions of pounds are spent on site investigations and huge inefficiencies are caused by digging and roadworks. Only in the UK, the utility industry undertakes 1.5 million street works annually to repair, maintain and upgrade its vast network of buried infrastructure. The majority of sensing techniques are limited in their ability to detect targets at depth, and are strongly influenced by ground conditions such as intervening media or weather.

Technology Overview

Unknown underground conditions present the largest single risk in infrastructure projects and cause significant delays and cost overruns, potentially costing up to half a percent of the gross domestic product of the country, and gravity sensors promise to detect problems before the start of construction. Understanding what lies beneath the ground would also help to protect the existing infrastructure and necessitate fewer, less invasive roadworks. If a rail track can be surveyed weekly, landslips could be spotted before it is too late.

Cutting-edge research undertaken at the University of Birmingham using quantum technology underpins the development of the next generation of gravity sensors capable of detecting deep-underground hazards such as sinkholes, mineshafts, and landslides faster and more precisely. It means potential catastrophes can be spotted earlier and averted.


  • Much deeper penetration below ground than current remote sensing tools
  • Faster measurements of gravity
  • More precise and accurate measurements


  • Geological survey
  • Buried infrastructures
  • Oil exploration
  • Autonomous shipping
  • Water resource management
  • Agriculture
  • Several patent families filed.
IP Status
  • Patent application submitted
  • Development partner
  • Licensing