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Production of the world's first small atomic clock

05.08.2022 03:57 AM
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Production of the world's first small atomic clock
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Production of the world's first small atomic clock

Accurate clocks open the way for GPS and navigation applications in autonomous vehicles to be safer, because they are based on accurate measurement of time between different and overlapping parameters on the roads.

A team from the University of Birmingham, in cooperation with the British Defense Science and Technology Laboratory, announced that they have produced the first atomic clock so small that it can work in the real world, after more than 10 years of working in laboratories.

According to the study published by this team in the journal Atomic Science and Technology, the new watch was the size of a "box" that accommodated about 120 liters and weighed less than 75 kg.

It may seem big to you, but previous atomic clocks were about the size of a truck or trailer, which holds about 1,500 liters.

Atomic clock

This type of atomic clock appeared in 2010 when researchers from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) developed a device that consisted of single laser-cooled ions trapped together in an electromagnetic ion trap. The watch was 37 times more accurate than the current international standard.

 

Clocks of this type work by using a precise laser beam to produce atomic oscillations in atoms, and then measure these oscillations with high accuracy, while their frequency (the number of times they oscillate) is a measure of elapsed time.

But since its advent, the challenge for scientists has been first to size and weight the watch, and secondly to reduce external influences on measurements, such as mechanical vibrations and electromagnetic interference.

Therefore, measurements must be made in completely empty chambers without any interference, and these chambers are used to trap atoms and then cool them close to a value of "absolute zero" until they reach a state that micro-atomic sensors can manipulate.

Very precise

In their new design, the researchers show, according to the University of Birmingham press release, that approximately 160,000 ultra-cold atoms can be captured inside a room in just under one second, a number that makes these clocks 10,000 times more accurate than previously recognized figures.

According to their new study, the researchers confirmed that they can move the watch for a distance of more than 200 kilometers outside the laboratory and then prepare it - by only one person - to be ready to work in an hour and a half, with the ability to withstand temperatures outside the laboratory.

All of the above developments open the door to very important practical uses of this type of technology.

Huge apps

In the contemporary world, accurate clocks are seen as a fundamental necessity in areas such as worldwide Internet communications, navigation systems, or the stock market where fractions of a second can make a significant economic impact.

For example, finer clocks allow for longer intervals between needing to resynchronize clocks in different bands of the Internet within country devices. In addition, accurate clocks open the way for GPS and navigation applications in autonomous vehicles to be safer, because they are based on accurate measurement of time between different and overlapping parameters on the roads.

There is also an expected role for hours with such accuracy in addressing basic physics questions, such as whether the fundamental constants in the universe are really “constants” or whether they vary with time, in addition to improving scientists’ measurements of the shape of the Earth and gravitational changes, and other accurate applications.

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