Latest in Gear

Image credit:

Researchers have increased atomic clock precision yet again

The clock uses a 3D arrangement of atoms rather than the typical 1D method.
Share
Tweet
Share

Sponsored Links

G.E. Marti / JILA

Researchers have pushed the precision and stability of atomic clocks to increasingly greater levels over the last few years. A big advancement was the introduction of optical lattices, lasers which essentially quarantine individual atoms and boost accuracy by keeping them from moving around and interacting with each other. Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have used this method to develop clocks so stable, they can keep extremely precise time for thousands and even billions of years. The team's most precise clock was created in 2015, but research published this week in Science describes a new version that just took that top spot.

Earlier versions that utilized the optical lattice method organized atoms in just one dimension -- limiting how many atoms could be used. But while more atoms can boost clock stability, they can also lower accuracy since they're more likely to collide. Atomic clocks work by using light, like from lasers, to push an atom's electrons into higher-energy positions. When those atoms move back to their lower positions, they release light and atomic clocks can measure time by those energy position movements. Measurements are accurate when those atoms keep to themselves, but keeping a lot of atoms separate from each other is increasingly difficult the more atoms you have.

However, the researchers at NIST developed a way to organize atoms in a 3D structure rather than a 1D one, increasing the number of atoms -- and thus, the clock's stability -- while still maintaining accuracy. The result is the most precise atomic clock every built. And this doesn't just advance time-keeping capabilities. As Gizmodo reports, this sort of clock could be used to detect dark matter or gravitational waves.

"Developing a clock like this represents the most sensitive and inquisitive instruments mankind has built," Jun Ye, an author of the study, told Gizmodo.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
Tweet
Share

Popular on Engadget

Jabra's ANC update for the Elite 75t earbuds is now available

Jabra's ANC update for the Elite 75t earbuds is now available

View
The latest ‘Fortnite’ patch makes the game 60GB smaller on PC

The latest ‘Fortnite’ patch makes the game 60GB smaller on PC

View
Quibi confirms it's shutting down

Quibi confirms it's shutting down

View
Apple pulls TV Remote app now that it's built into iOS

Apple pulls TV Remote app now that it's built into iOS

View
Apple iPad Air (2020) review: Who needs the iPad Pro?

Apple iPad Air (2020) review: Who needs the iPad Pro?

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr