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Thales and Syrlinks to develop quantum clocks for France

Thales logoThales and Syrlinks have signed a multi-year contract with the French defence procurement agency (DGA) to develop a new generation of tiny, high-performance atomic clocks.

Code-named Chronos, these new quantum clocks will meet the requirements of numerous civil and military applications. With their very high stability (error of less than 1 second in tens of thousands of years), defence electronics equipment will be able to operate when a GNSS signal is unavailable, for example due to hostile jamming.

Working with the procurement agency, the partners will help safeguard France’s technological sovereignty in GNSS-denied positioning, guidance, navigation and encrypted military communications. In civil applications (5G network synchronization, transport, energy, etc.), the Chronos quantum clocks will deliver low price and high performance to French and international customers.

Large swaths of the modern economy now rely on satellites for synchronization. GNSS technology provides the precise time reference for critical infrastructure such as 4G/5G networks, internet, air and rail transport, energy networks, global banking transactions and high-frequency trading, which would quickly fail if the signal were unavailable. In view of this high level of dependency, backup systems are needed to ensure that our civil and military infrastructure can continue to operate even if the GNSS timing signal is unavailable.

Thales’s industrial facility in Vélizy-Villacoublay and the Thales Research & Technology center in Palaiseau, both near Paris, have the industrial capabilities and talent to manufacture the atomic and optical core of these future quantum clocks.

Syrlinks — a French company based in Rennes, Brittany — specializes in satellite radiocommunications, radionavigation systems and miniature atomic clocks, and its products were selected to equip 650 satellites for the American operator OneWeb. The company will develop the electronic brain of the Chronos clock and guarantee its high-precision timing function.

The CNRS will provide critical scientific support for this project via its SYRTE (Observatoire de Paris) and Femto-ST (Université de Franche-Comté) joint research units.

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