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Science & Technology

World's most accurate atomic clock built

By T.K. Randall
August 24, 2013 · Comment icon 11 comments

The groundbreaking ytterbium lattice atomic clock at NIST. Image Credit: Burrus/NIST
A pair of experimental atomic clocks have succeeded in setting a new world record for stability.
Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology have developed two atomic clocks based on ytterbium atoms that have proved to be the most stable timepieces on the planet.

This measurement is based on how precisely the duration of each tick matches that of every other tick, in this case the clock ticks are stable to within a staggering two parts in 1 quintillion - that's a 1 followed by 18 zeroes.
The ytterbium clocks are in fact so accurate that they would continue to keep perfect time for a period longer than the entire age of the universe. Physicists believe that the breakthrough will have significant benefits in the future development of sensor equipment and could lead to the development of atomic clocks that are even more accurate.

"The stability of the ytterbium lattice clocks opens the door to a number of exciting practical applications of high-performance timekeeping," said NIST physicist and co-author Andrew Ludlow.

Source: NIST | Comments (11)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #2 Posted by brlesq1 11 years ago
Geez, with my record, I could use something like that.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Realm 11 years ago
Wilson, your one trillionth of a second late. You're fired!
Comment icon #4 Posted by ancient astronaut 11 years ago
If you've got absolutely nothing else to do, this is what you build.
Comment icon #5 Posted by shrooma 11 years ago
if they are so accurate that they wouldn't lose time given the entire history of the universe, then they should be the last superclocks ever built. why would you need more accuracy than that? so your GPS is an inch more sensitive?!
Comment icon #6 Posted by MrPringle 11 years ago
They got way too much time on their hands. At least its accurate now.
Comment icon #7 Posted by spud the mackem 11 years ago
Is it set on G.M.T. ? And when it was set what time did they set it from,a Rotary or a Seiko.or maybe Big Ben.
Comment icon #8 Posted by bigjonalien 11 years ago
So wat year is it really?
Comment icon #9 Posted by Render 11 years ago
It's actually immensly useful. Electronics work with time, no way around that. If you can get more accurate clock pulses you can create faster data rates, faster communications. If scientific measurements can become more accurate this has further implications. For example the particle accelerator. Communcation through and within space also needs very exact timing. The more exact the more we can all benefit from faster data rates. If you know the exact timing of things that happen in space for example, you can more easily see if something changes within a certain period. Something you could mis... [More]
Comment icon #10 Posted by spud the mackem 11 years ago
So wat year is it really? Year One for the Atomic clock.But if you pass through the date line you either gain or lose a day,depends on which way you're going.I've lost 2 days.
Comment icon #11 Posted by Dooks123 11 years ago
It's actually immensly useful. Electronics work with time, no way around that. If you can get more accurate clock pulses you can create faster data rates, faster communications. If scientific measurements can become more accurate this has further implications. For example the particle accelerator. Communcation through and within space also needs very exact timing. The more exact the more we can all benefit from faster data rates. If you know the exact timing of things that happen in space for example, you can more easily see if something changes within a certain period. Something you could mis... [More]


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