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Frank Narducci, PhD

Chair, Physics Department

Prof. Frank Narducci graduated with top honors in both physics and math from Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, in 1989. He then went to the University of Rochester to earn a Master of Arts in 1991 and a doctorate in 1996. The late Prof. Leonard Mandel supervised his PhD dissertation, entitled Photon correlations in single and multi-atoms systems.

Upon completion of his degree, he joined the Naval Air Systems Command as a staff physicist establishing his own research team to investigate effects in various atomic systems, including cold atom and warm cells. He served as a program manager for the Office of Naval Research from 2000-2003. He was elected a NavAir Associate Fellow in 2006 and a full NavAir Fellow in 2012. He won the Dolores Etter Award for Top Navy Scientist (Individual) in 2013 and become the Senior Science and Technology Manager: Position, Navigation and TimeKeeping. He joined the faculty of the Naval Postgraduate School in July 2017. He continues his research while teaching.

Also, "on the side", he has served as Associate Editor for Physical Review A (currently the longest serving editor) and Associate Editor for Physical Review Letters. He has also guest edited a special issue of the Journal of Modern Optics for the last 10 or so years devoted to the Proceedings of the Conference of The Physics of Quantum Electronics.

"We need the physicist. We need the computer scientist who can write the algorithm. We need the electrical engineer who can do this circuit design, and we need people with operational experience that can tell us this is not going to work in this scenario. The Naval Postgraduate School is a wonderful place where you have that melting pot of all the expertise that you need to get a reliable product in the hands of those who need it."

How does breadth of expertise in the NPS community enhance the capacity to deliver relevant solutions?

I'm going to focus the answer based on quantum technologies, but I think it's applicable broadly. To perform experiments in quantum technology, it's sufficient, to have a physicist or maybe a physicist and an electrical engineer. You can put some stuff together in the laboratory and get that out to the warfighter to have something that is reliable, to have a technology readiness level of nine, which means you can turn it on.

But for it to work always, under any condition, that involves a breadth of technologies, and so here at the Naval Postgraduate School we can pull in the different resources, the different interdisciplinary areas that we need to make something like that work.

We need the physicist. We need the computer scientist who can write the algorithm. We need the electrical engineer who can do this circuit design, and we need people with operational experience that can tell us this is not going to work in this scenario. The Naval Postgraduate School is a wonderful place where you have that melting pot of all the expertise that you need to get a reliable product in the hands of those who need it.

What areas can quantum technologies have the greatest impact in the short term?

Quantum technologies can make an impact in DOD in several places. Sensing and inertial navigation to me is, of course, the one that's in the forefront because that's what I do. But I also see encryption as another possibility. Can I communicate with you, for example, and the adversary, not be able to listen in and not be able to figure out what we're talking about, protected by the laws of quantum mechanics, not protected by an encryption scheme that goes hand in hand with the quantum computer.

Quantum computers won't be a blazing fast gaming machine, but quantum computers will be very good at doing things like factoring, which is a lot of our encryption schemes are based on. So if we have an encryption scheme that is based on and protected by the laws of quantum mechanics, then even if you invent a quantum computer, you don't have to worry about the schemes being broken. So security is one, quantum computing and encryption as well as sensing.

Why is the quantum race is so important and what could be at stake if the U.S. fails to keep up and continue investing in quantum research and adversaries like the People’s Republic of China pull ahead?

China for sure has invested a ton of money in quantum technologies, and they have made some unbelievably impressive strides in quantum technology. When I go to conferences and I talk to some of our Chinese scientists who are our friends, they tell me money is no object. They do not have a money issue when it comes to quantum research, and we are seeing it pay off.

If we do not invest serious dollars, we are going to fall further behind. And I use choice of words here very carefully. We are already behind, in my opinion. We've got a lot of brilliant scientists in the United States making a lot of good strides, a lot of good work. But the Chinese are definitely ahead of us, in my opinion.

Prof. Narducci's work on NPS' Atomic Tower, as highlighted in the article "NPS Professor’s DURIP Award Will Take Quantum Research to New Heights," is supported in part by the research conducted with and by NPS' military students. Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Spakowski’s research demonstrated the ability to simultaneously frequency lock two repump lasers to the degree necessary to form a strontium magneto-optical trap, thereby enabling a new system for atom interferometry experiments at the Naval Postgraduate School.

How does the frequency stability achieved by the single strontium Hollow Cathode Lamp (HCL) design in this system support the practical application of atom interferometry experiments for the Naval Postgraduate School?

The atom interferometry experiments that we expect to perform in the strontium tower currently under construction involve a minimum of three lasers (and eventually four). The Hollow Cathode Lamp (HCL) design developed by Lt. Cdmr. Spakowski not only provided us with two lasers of the pre-requisite frequency stability, but also a method to achieve this in a more compact form. Furthermore, the technique he developed is based on simple atomic spectroscopy methods which does not rely on very expensive and sensitive equipment, but rather the simplicity of the HCL.

Could you provide insights into how Spakowski’s research aligns with the Navy's operational requirements and the potential scenarios where this technology could be deployed effectively?

The technology being developed here is envisioned to be used primarily as an aid to navigation when GPS is not available. The actual instrument being constructed will never be deployed, because of its size. However, we do expect eventually to develop fieldable sensors, in which case of course size weight and power (SWAP) become an issue. Lt. Cmdr. Spakowski’s work contributes to the possibility of eventual deployment by developing a technique that is compact and requires no external expensive calibration source. Scenarios where this technology might be used are any that involve the loss of GPS. These can include submarine navigation, where GPS is not received underwater, or battlefield engagements where GPS might be jammed.

How does the optical system that Spakowski developed impact the capabilities of the Atomic Tower that is being constructed at NPS by the Quantum Sensing Lab team?

Basically, the system requires three lasers with very precise frequencies (wavelengths) to work. The stabilization of one laser (a blue one) is straightforward and standard. But the other two (both of them red) are trickier. Lt. Cmdr. Spakowski’s work has enabled us to move forward with the strontium tower construction.

What are the expected or desired impacts of constructing the Atomic Tower at NPS? How will NPS’ Atomic Tower enhance collaboration with other institutions, DOD organizations, or industry?

We envision the Atomic Tower at NPS as being a user facility and are designing it so that other entities (other academic institutions, DOD organizations and industry) can “log onto” the system and do experiments without having to come to NPS. In this sense, it will foster more collaboration across the field and with the Naval Postgraduate School.

Learn more about Prof. Narducci's work in the article NPS Professor’s DURIP Award Will Take Quantum Research to New Heights.

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