The National Measurement Institute Prize for Excellence in Measurement Techniques has been awarded to ARC Engineered Quantum Systems (EQus) Chief Investigator Dr Michael Biercuk, for outstanding research into sensitive measurements in force.


Dr Biercuk was awarded the prize for his collaborative research that demonstrated the possibility of using trapped atomic ions as extremely sensitive detectors of applied forces and electromagnetic fields.


The research team, consisting of Dr Biercuk, the Ion Storage Group and the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, were able to measure forces with extraordinary sensitivity – down to the yoctonewton (yN) level. The yN level represents one septillionth of a Newton.


Federal Minister for Innovation Senator Kim Carr congratulated Dr Biercuk for his work.


"This is an incredibly small force - about a million million billion times smaller than the force exerted by a feather lying on a table. The measurement is a thousand times more sensitive than anything previously possible,” Senator Carr said.


Dr Biercuk said this has the potential to dramatically improve the speed and efficiency of standoff detection of small forces and fields – for instance, geophysical anomalies useful in mineral exploration.

"I am extremely grateful and humbled that this work was deemed significant enough to warrant this distinction, and I'm very pleased that the exciting new field of quantum science is having impacts on a variety of disciplines, including measurement science," Dr Biercuk said.