US National Institute of Standards and Technology engineers have developed a miniature atomic clock, the size of a wristwatch. If you can calibrate it, it could result in devices that are ten or even a hundred times more accurate than the devices currently in use.

Atomic clocks are the most accurate timekeeping devices in the world. They measure the passage of time based on the vibrations of the atoms. However, its importance goes much further than that, as it has become crucial in many scientific researches, and the technologies used in daily life greatly benefit from it.

Traditional atomic clocks, on the one hand, are great. On the other hand, it can be unstable due to various environmental influences, so it must be calibrated from time to time. In response, the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently developed a new atomic clock the size of a postage stamp, he writes. Interesting geometry.

the Nature Communications Moreover, the structure presented in the scientific paper is much more accurate than the existing systems.

Making atomic clocks portable is essential for accurate timekeeping and synchronization in navigation and telecommunications systems, remote environments, scientific research, and defense applications alike. Briefcase-sized atomic clocks exist, but they require nearly three times the power of an average smartphone.

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The first chip-scale atomic clock (CSAC) was developed in 2001 at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). They have been used in a variety of fields, including underwater navigation and/or military navigation where traditional GPS has failed. However, its operation is greatly affected if the ambient temperature changes or the gas around it breaks.

Researchers have now tried to eliminate this problem. For this, several layers of etched glass and silicon were created. This essentially created a miniature version of the proven NIST-7 atomic clock that was used between 1993 and 1999.


The clock contained a chamber in which scientists placed a piece of rubidium. This heats up and shoots rubidium atoms through a channel barely 100 micrometers in diameter. These atoms are then collected on the other side.

So far, only one test device has been manufactured, but even this device hardly shows any worse performance than the CSAC devices currently in use. At the same time, scientists believe that the structure will be able to provide 10-100 times better performance when its final version is ready. This will allow, for example, very accurate navigation in places where GPS is no longer available.

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