Whether for the definition of SI units, testing the laws of physics or for applications yet to be dreamt of, scientists will always want more stability and more accuracy in their atomic clocks. Many-atom lattice clocks have achieved better precision than clocks based on single trapped ions, but their accuracy has so far been relatively poor. This study from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) demonstrates a many-atom clock that achieves better accuracy than single-ion-based clocks, and at the same time reduces the required measurement time by two orders of magnitude. Based on thousands of neutral strontium atoms trapped in a laser beam, this new 'optical lattice' clock has the stability, reproducibility and accuracy that make it a prime contender for consideration as a primary standard. It would neither gain nor lose one second in about 5 billion years — although the Earth is unlikely to last that long.
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