New Atomic Clock Uses Lasers, Could Change How Seconds Are Measured

An atomic clock which uses new, incredibly precise measurements to track the passing of time may change the way seconds are defined, researchers say.

Using lasers, these new devices are more accurate than the modern atomic clocks in use. Scientists say, according to BBC, that the new clocks are three times more accurate than the atomic clocks in use now.

Known as optical lattice clocks, the advanced timekeepers will lose only one second every 300 million years.

What makes these new atomic clocks so superior to the old ones? Jerome Lodewyck of the Paris Observatory explains his and his colleagues’ new innovation.

Atomic clocks, in general, measure the passage of time by counting the vibrations of atoms. Current atomic clocks measure the vibrations of caesium atoms by exposing them to microwaves.

Lodewyck says that their clocks, however, measure strontium atoms with light, because “laser beams oscillate much faster than microwave radiation.” In essence, the new clocks check in with atomic “bell tolls” more often, and so have less chance to become inaccurate.

Over time, Lodewyck believes this could lead to a more precise measure of the second unit, reports Nature.

Innovation in time keeping and producing an accurate timepiece is becoming increasingly important. In science, it may aid in long term physics and astronomy experiments and observations.

In business and technology applications, where major transactions happen in a flash and communications rely on precision, this is doubly important.

The new optical lattice clock is not only accurate, but stable. Lodewyck says that it has been shown to be able to maintain accuracy consistently, not just on average.

Another atomic clock, known as the ion clock, is being perfected as well. The ion clock is expected to lose only one second every few billion years. However, it relies on single ion, which may prove problematic for stability.

New advances in atomic clocks like the optical lattice clock increasingly perfects our understanding of the passage of time and could influence everything from the stock market to cell phone reception.

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