The technology known as Cryoclock produces the purest radio frequency (RF) signals in the world. This is a critical capability for JORN, the nation’s most prominent early warning system, and enables the Commonwealth to detect the smallest targets approaching the north of Australia.
BAE Systems Australia JORN Acquisition Project Manager responsible for the Cryoclock project Phillip Way said, “We’ve seen Cryoclock come a long way and I’m proud of the work we’ve done. When we partnered with QuantX Labs in 2019, Cryoclock had just passed the scientific research stage and achieved a prototype demonstration. We maximised a strong working relationship with them and together we created the engineering knowhow to make Cryoclock a reality. Now, we’ve built the capacity for a high quality product and QuantX has gone from a small start up to a company standing on its own two feet.”
In October 2022, Cryoclock reached a major milestone by passing full acceptance testing, after undergoing upgrades and design improvements over the last two years. Now, the Cryoclock–JORN installation is leading to spin-off opportunities for the technology.
QuantX Labs General Manager Martin O’Connor said, “It has been the strong collaborations with BAE Systems Australia, University of Adelaide and defence agencies that has fast tracked our breakthrough Cryoclock technology to market. “QuantX Labs has received outstanding guidance from the BAE Systems Australia engineering team. This has driven advancements across our entire oscillator and clock product range for applications beyond the JORN program.”
Cryoclock works by using a sapphire crystal to generate an extremely stable signal in HF and microwave frequencies. The sapphire crystal is cryogenically cooled to six degrees Kelvin (-267 degrees Celsius). The extreme purity of the signal frequency is what will provide JORN with the ability to search further and identify smaller targets.
It wasn’t until a recent breakthrough in using closed-loop cryogenics to cool the Cryoclock’s sapphire crystal that it became practical enough to be used in systems like JORN.
The Cryoclock is a self-contained device that has a lot of inbuilt redundancy measures. Monitoring software is used to keep an eye on system health levels and servicing is only needed every two years. Currently undergoing Phase 6 upgrades, JORN is an over-the-horizon radar network that monitors the top of Australia for unidentified sea and air threats, as well as aiding in rescue operations and disaster relief efforts.