Quantum, Directionally Dependent Magnetic Sensing Based on Avian Magnetoreceptors

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DARPA’s Quantum Effects in Biological Environments (QuBE) program is designed to re-examine biological sensing from a quantum and sub-atomic viewpoint[1].  DARPA plans to move away from the worldview that natural biological sensors are governed by classic physics; instead being governed at the quantum and sub-atomic level.  DARPA’s QuBE program intends to use this thought process to create biomimetic nanotechnology interventions that emulate a bird’s magnetic field sensing among other innovations.  

One of the most scientifically accepted hypothesis on how some migratory birds can sense the Earth’s magnetic field is based on photochemical reactions in the birds retina[2].  The excitement of electrons in pairs of light sensitive proteins called cryptochromes causes a physical rather than chemical signature on the proteins that the birds detect.  This hypothesis explains why some migratory birds, such as the European Robins, can only orient themselves to a magnetic field in light and with a working ocular system[3].  This approach can be used to create directional sensing systems that are independent of background electromagnetic or magnetic “noise”.



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This novel technology would use biomimetic devices that track the earth’s magnetism for use in guidance systems in security/defense and transportation technologies; allowing precision in inherently noisy environments.




Benefit Summary: 

This technology has the potential for more precise guidance systems and is a potential disruptive technology in magnetic guidance technology.


Risk Summary: 

Unknown/Uncertain due to the secretive and blue sky nature of the technology.

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