Scientists develop optical lattice atomic clocks that could redefine the way we measure time

 

A new clock has been developed by Parisian scientists that could redefine the second.

Current technology relies on atomic clocks to keep track of the seconds and provide a measure of time. However, researchers have now developed ‘optical lattice clocks’, which lose just one second every 300 million years, making it potentially a more accurate measurement of time.

Atomic clocks are accurate to one second every 100 million years, making them three times as accurate when measuring time.

The traditional grandfather clock uses a pendulum swing to measure intervals of time and the atomic clock uses very regular vibrations of atoms. This new system uses light to excite strontium atoms.

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Jerome Lodewyck, from the Paris Observatory, said: “In our clocks we use laser beams. Laser beams oscillate much faster than microwave radiation, and in a sense we divide time in much shorter intervals so we can measure time more precisely.”

Researchers compared the optical lattice clocks with current atomic timekeepers, as well as comparing two optical clocks with each other. They found that they were both stable and kept time in agreement.

“For instance, if you have your wristwatch, and one day you are one second late, and one day one second early, then your clock is not stable. But it could still have good accuracy if over a million days the time is correct,” Dr Lodewyck explained.

Telecommunications, stock markets and other technologies rely on accuracy in measuring time, meaning that this technology could be beneficial.

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