A group of physicists announced the best performance atomic clocks since when.
The instrument is said to measure time so accurately that it will only lose a second every 300 billion years, allowing for more precise measurements of gravitational waves, dark matter and other physical phenomena. A study based on research led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison was published Wednesday (February 16) in the journal Nature.
Shimon Kolkowitz, a physics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and senior author of the study, said in a statement statment. “We are working to improve their performance and develop emerging applications that are enabled through this improved performance.”
Related: NASA’s atomic clock will pioneer deep space travel
In general, atomic clocks are the clocks that Echo tracking Of the frequencies of the atoms, they are usually cesium or rubidium atoms. This process allows such clocks to measure time with a high degree of accuracy. NASA agency Atomic clock in deep space It is an example of a space experiment, which tested the technology in orbit for two years.
Atomic clocks work by keeping track of the energy levels of electrons. “When an electron changes energy levels, it absorbs or emits light at a frequency similar to all atoms of a given element,” the university explained in the same statement. “Optical atomic clocks keep time with a laser tuned to precisely match that frequency, and they require some of the world’s most advanced lasers to keep time precisely.”
The new study created a multiplexed clock, which separated strontium Atoms in a line in a single vacuum chamber. The team used a “relatively inferior laser,” as Kolkowitz called it, which is still able to produce near record levels of measurement accuracy.
If they shine the laser on just one hour, the laser excites electrons in the same number of atoms for only a tenth of a second. But with two hours at the same time, the atoms remained excited for 26 seconds.
“Usually, our lasers will limit the performance of these watches,” Kolkowitz said. “But because the watches are in the same environment and expose exactly the same laser light, the laser effect completely wears off.”
The group then tried to measure the differences between the clocks specifically, because two groups of atoms in slightly different environments are “kicking” at different rates due to changes in magnetic or gravitational fields. The team ran the experiment more than 1,000 times to measure the difference, and found more accuracy in this measurement over time.
Ultimately, the researchers detected a difference in the signaling rate between two atomic clocks that “corresponds to differing from each other by only one second every 300 billion years — a precise timekeeping measurement that sets a world record for two clocks spatially separated,” the university said.
Coincidentally, an unrelated study in the same issue of Nature published a frequency difference between the top and bottom of a cloud of dispersed atoms about 10 times better than that of the UW-Madison group.
The other study, led by a research institute in Colorado called JILA (formerly the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics), set the overall world record for the smallest frequency difference. The UW-Madison group comes in second.
“The surprising thing is that we have shown similar performance to the JILA range despite the fact that we are using a laser that is an order of magnitude worse,” Kolkowitz said. “This is really important for a lot of real world applications, where our laser looks a lot like what you would get out in the field.”
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