Atomic clocks are the current most accurate time and frequency standards, capable of operating with an uncertity of only a second in millions of years. A new research currently in the work by scientist from the University of New South Wales seeks to track time with an unprecedented accuracy of a mere 20th a second in 14 billion years, 100 times more accurate than an atomic clock.
Atomic clocks work by tracking the orbit of electrons, essentially using them as a sort of pendulum. The researchers suggest they can reach a hundredfold increase in accuracy by employing an alternate solution. They propose using lasers to orient the electrons in an atom in such a manner that the clock could actually track neutrons orbiting around the atom’s nucleus. The proposed single-ion clock, or nuclear clock, would thus be accurate to 19 decimal places or by a twentieth of a second over 14 billion years, roughly the age of the Universe.
Electrons are subjected to slight external interference, which cause a meager, yet important, inaccuracy in atomic clocks. Neutrons orbit extremely close to the nucleus, which makes them almost immune to interference. Currently, atomic clocks are the world’s timekeeping standard, and are widely used in a range of applications, from GPS navigation systems, to high-bandwidth data transfer, to govermental timing synchronization, to system synchronization in particle accelerators, where even a nanosecond error needs to be cleared.
“This is nearly 100 times more accurate than the best atomic clocks we have now,” says professor Victor Flambaum of the University of New South Wales.
“It would allow scientists to test fundamental physical theories at unprecedented levels of precision and provide an unmatched tool for applied physics research.”
No word has been given so far concerning when the researchers will actually build the first nuclear clock, however their findings are expected to be published in an upcoming paper in the journal It’s not clear just yet if or when the researchers plan to construct such a clock, but their findings are set to be published in the industry journal Physical Review Letters.