Atomic Clocks Have Reached A Never-Before-Achieved Level Of Accuracy

Atomic Clocks Have Reached A Never-Before-Achieved Level Of Accuracy

Researchers in collaboration with the Boulder Atomic Clock Optical Network (Bacon) have made some incredible advances in time maintenance. 

The team was able to compare both optical fibers and air with record accuracy, on the way to the final redefining of the basic unit of time: the second. The work revealed in nature alone cannot change how time measured, as it still reports three accurate measurements of the natural constant. In addition, it encourages us to measure all the frequencies that humanity has truly surpassed.

The second defined by a very specific frequency related to the cesium atom. This particular frequency is the underpinning physical phenomenon of classic microwave-based atomic clocks. However, the new generation is 100 times more accurate than what can achieved through cesium, depending on the different atomic clocks. Three optical atomic clocks used in the experiment. The team compared aluminum-ion clocks and ytterbium latex clocks located in different laboratories at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) at a joint institute of JIL, 1.5 km (just a mile below) in strontium.

The measurements of the three clocks were so accurate that their uncertainty never exceeds eight parts at 1018 (or 0.000000000000000008). NIST physicist David Hume said in a statement, “These comparisons really define the state of the art for both fiber-based and free-space measurements – they are 10 times more accurate than any clock using the various atoms performed so far.” The team measured the relationship between the natural frequencies of the three atoms measured in pairs (ytterbium-strontium, ytterbium-aluminum, and aluminum-strontium). These are still the most accurate frequency measurements – the accuracy is outstanding and truly exposes a completely new world of scientific research.

The focus is clearly on redefining the first and the second. Not only are optical atomic clocks more precise, they are also incredibly stable. They will not lose or gain a second in a billion years. Although these achievements are incredible, there are still steps to taken before redefining the second. 

Optical atomic clocks are so incredibly precise that they can used by themselves to study the effects of gravity and even to study physics outside of current theories, including attempts to discover what dark matter is made of. The work shows that it may be possible to adjust the best atomic clocks across remote sites of the earth and even send signals to spacecraft. A new type of atomic clock may soon be the gold standard for measuring time.