Researchers create new kind of atomic clock

Date:18 December 2020 Author: Leila Stein

Researchers from MIT have created a new atomic clock that keeps time more precisely than those which came before it.

Atomic clocks work by using lasers to measure the vibrations of atoms. The more precise they are the more they could help with some of the world’s most complicated questions.

The researchers built this new clock so that it measures atoms that have been quantumly entangled. These atoms are correlated in a way that is impossible according to the laws of classical physics, and that allows the scientists to measure the atoms’ vibrations more accurately.

“Entanglement-enhanced optical atomic clocks will have the potential to reach a better precision in one second than current state-of-the-art optical clocks,”  said lead author Edwin Pedrozo-Peñafiel, a postdoc in MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics in a statement.

The group cooled the atoms and trapped them in an optical cavity formed by two mirrors. They then sent a laser through this cavity, where it ping-ponged between the mirrors, interacting with the atoms thousands of times.

In this way, the researchers quantumly entangle the atoms and then use another laser to measure their average frequency. When the team ran a similar experiment without entangling atoms, they found that the atomic clock with entangled atoms reached a desired precision four times faster.

If all atomic clocks worked the way this one does then their timing, over the entire age of the universe, would be less than 100 milliseconds off.

Picture: MIT

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