Deeptech startup Atomionics raises S$2.5m in seed funding to develop product

ATOMIONICS, a deeptech startup which develops quantum sensors that enable navigation without GPS, has raised S$2.5 million in seed funding led by Wavemaker Partners, in partnership with SGInnovate and Cap Vista. Fresh funds will be used to build the product and take it to market.

Other investors who participated in the round include 500 Startups’ South-east Asia-focused 500 Durians fund, Apsara Investments, 6th Horizon, Entrepreneur First, and several angel investors.

Atomionic’s quantum sensors have several use cases. These sensors can pinpoint where underground hydrocarbon and mineral reserves are, allow aircraft and submarines to navigate without GPS, as well as detect earthquakes, volcanoes and underground infrastructure, said the startup.

Companies in the construction and tunneling industry, for instance, can use this to identify underground infrastructure like utility lines and existing tunnels before embarking on a new project, said Sahil Tapiawala, chief executive and co-founder of Atomionics. “This reduces the risk of disrupting these utilities when digging, and helps them plan a tunnel optimally.”

An example of Atomionic's quantum gravimeter at work
An example of Atomionic's quantum gravimeter at work

To take their quantum sensors to market, Atomionics aims to build a quantum gravimeter. The quantum gravimeter, which looks like a box, can sense objects hidden under the ground. Users can place this on a moving vehicle even in harsh operating conditions, both onshore and offshore. 

“The aim is to create a universal positioning system that works everywhere – underground, underwater, and even in space,” said Mr Tapiawala. “What excites us the most is that we can build a completely new positioning system without the need for any satellites or external signals.”

The company can do that because its quantum sensing technology allows it to observe the wave nature of atoms. It can thus measure the forces acting on these atoms, in turn calculating gravity, acceleration, and rotation, said Mr Tapiawala.

Paul Santos, managing partner of Wavemaker Partners, noted: “Humans and machines have a hard time navigating environments where GPS doesn’t work. Atomionics uses quantum sensors that run on cold atom sensing and measure gravity to provide safe, accurate and precise navigation underwater, underground, and possibly even in space.”

Ravi Kumar, chief technology officer and co-founder of Atomionics, said: “There has been an overwhelming demand for such robust, reliable, and surveyable quantum gravimeters from hydrocarbon and mineral exploration companies. These companies typically end up spending significant capital and time on seismic data acquisition and analysis. 

“Use of Atomionics’ technology can significantly reduce this dependence and cost of exploration, which will help reduce the cost of energy and democratise access to energy for the next billion people.”  

“Quantum sensing is an emerging area that we believe will have significant effect in national security and defence,” added Chng Zhen Hao, CEO at Cap Vista, Singapore Defense Science Technology Agency’s investment arm.

Atomionics was founded in 2018 by Mr Tapiawala and Dr Kumar, who met in the Entrepreneur First incubator program. 

Before coming together to start Atomionics, Dr Kumar conducted his post-doctoral research in cold atom physics at the Center for Quantum Technologies in the National University of Singapore, while Mr Tapiawala completed his research in multi-material 3D printing and soft robots at the Singapore University of Technology and Design.