News Release

Sauer receives funding for project studying tunable RF atomic magnetometer as an electrically small receiver

Grant and Award Announcement

George Mason University

Sauer Receives Funding For Project Studying Tunable RF Atomic Magnetometer As An Electrically Small Receiver

Karen Sauer, Professor, Physics and Astronomy, College of Science, received funding for the project: “Tunable RF Atomic Magnetometer as an Electrically Small Receiver.”

Sauer will complete work for this project in three phases.

In Phase 1, she will focus on developing and investigating novel bias-field control based on fully atom-based measurements as well as testing the performance of sensor modules and full sensors as they become available.

In Phase 2, she will optimize active bias-control techniques for operation in unshielded environments, in a manner that does not degrade RF magnetometer performance.

In Phase 3, she will provide support for areas such as performance improvement, sensor calibration methods, and noise-cancellation techniques. She will also provide input on issues that arise in operating sensor out of the shield. Sauer will also provide optimized experimental and numerical results.

Regarding the significance of this funding, Sauer said, “The optically-pumped atomic magnetometer is a quantum sensor that rivals sensitivities of other detection techniques in the radio-frequency range, particularly below 50 MHz. It is easily tunable with a small static magnetic field, making it attractive for its adaptability. This ease, however, comes at a cost, as it is also sensitive to stray static magnetic fields caused by changes in the local environment. The project at George Mason aims at compensating for these changes in real-time, so that the sensor can be used in uncontrolled conditions, as would be needed for out-of-the-lab applications.”

Sauer received $125,000 from SRI International on a subaward from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for this project. Funding began in June 2024 and will end in Oct. 2025.



George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls more than 40,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity, and commitment to accessibility. In 2023, the university launched Mason Now: Power the Possible, a one-billion-dollar comprehensive campaign to support student success, research, innovation, community, and stewardship. Learn more at

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