Creating A Stable Optical Clock

Time is something that has always fascinated humanity. The ancient Egyptians invented the first sun dial to measure out the day and ancient Greek philosophers pondered what time’s real nature was. Even today it seems we are always inventing a new slightly  more accurate clock that lets us know our accuracy to another femtosecond or two. Although it seems frivolous this research is actually very important. It’s using clocks like these that we can begin to test Einstein’s and Lorentz’s theories about how the universe operates. Being able to tell such accurate time also has practical benefits in communications and astrophysics where as time progresses any discrepancy in a clocks counting can be disastrous.

The new ideas being tested are optical lattice clocks. An optical lattice is not a physical material thing as it might sound, instead it is actually the effect generated by the interference of lasers that creates a nice periodic pattern. Atoms then get trapped at the lowest potentials of this pattern which resembles a crystalline lattice in shape. A clock designed from an optical lattice would be extremely accurate but also portable and could be easily be used high quality research performed in space. The problem is the lasers used in these devices are quite unstable and so work has to be done in order to make sure they can be maintained for a sufficient length of time.Recently a paper has managed to show a new set up with reduced instability in the laser and an acceleration sensitivity of 3 × 10−10/g which may seem very low but it’s ten times better than the previous design. It is now believed that since this clock has to be built in a vacuum maintaining pressure inside this chamber seems to be the next big blockade in the road ahead.


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