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US Scientists Created the Most Precise Clock of the World

Aug 23, 2013 11:30 IST

The scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology revealed in the third week of August 2013 that they created the most precise clock of the world. The ticking rate of this clock varies less than two parts in one quintillion, or ten times better than any clock in the world.

Features of the most precise clock of the world

• The clock is made up of the element ytterbium. This element can be used for technological advancements beyond the timekeeping.
• The clock can be used for various purposes such as checking temperature, navigation systems as well as magnetic fields.
• The co-author of the study which revealed the clock, Andrew Ludlow explained that the stability of this ytterbium lattice clock paves way for other practical applications of high-performance timekeeping.

Mechanism of the clock

The mechanical clocks make use of the pendulum movement in order to keep the time. The atomic clocks, on the other hand, make use of an electromagnetic signal of light which is emitted at exact frequency, which in turn moves the electrons in cesium atoms.

The scientists built the ytterbium clocks by making use of around 10000 rare-earth atoms which were cooled to 10 microkelvin (10 millionths of a degree above absolute zero). These atoms were then trapped in the optical lattice made out of laser light.

Yet another laser ticks 518 trillion times per second and triggers the transition between two energy levels in the atoms. The higher level of stability and precision of the clock is because of the presence of larger numbers of atoms.

In order to extract best performance of any clock, the technicians need to average the current US civilian time standard, the NIST-F1 cesium fountain clock, for about 400,000 seconds (about five days). However, in case of ytterbium clocks, the same result can be achieved in around one second of averaging time.

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