Quantum technology firm ColdQuanta has secured a five-year contract to support the Compact Rubidium Optical Clock (CROC) programme.

The company will serve as a subcontractor to Vescent, which is under contract to develop portable atomic clocks.

In December 2021, Vescent was awarded the $15.6m Broad Area Announcement (BAA) optical clock development contract by the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

With development inputs from the Atomic Devices and Instrumentation Group, ColdQuanta will offer the physics package at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

ColdQuanta research and security solutions president Chester Kennedy said: “ColdQuanta is pleased to work alongside our partners to advance innovation for critical defence technologies used by the US Navy.

“The CROC programme demonstrates how ColdQuanta’s technology is evolving as the enabler of a broad ecosystem around quantum. By bringing all of the critical elements together, we can more rapidly bring the benefits of quantum technology to the world.”

The CROC programme will be carried out in three phases through 2026.

Under the first phase, all key technology components will be upgraded to technology readiness level (TRL) 6 and showcased in a modular clock.

The phase two involves engineering and verification to incorporate the individual components into prototype clocks.

In the last phase, ten final prototype clocks will be manufactured and evaluated by the ONR in relevant platforms.

For better performance and stability, this CROC programme will conduct a two-photon optical clock transition in a warm vapor of rubidium (Rb) atoms.