Swiss and French researchers have found new laser technology for use in atomic clocks, which could raise the precision of timekeeping to losing just one second every six million years, according to a press release by University of Neuchatel on Saturday.
Scientists from the Time and Frequency Laboratory (LTF) of the University of Neuchatel (UniNE), Switzerland, and their French partners developed a new class of thermal cesium jet clocks that are 10 times more precise than existing atomic clocks.
The technology will allow for better-synchronized telecommunications networks, as well as improved communication among satellite navigation systems, according to the release.
Laser diodes are the centerpieces of atomic clocks. They "interrogate" the atoms giving the reference time, producing a light of a very precise frequency to interface with atoms that create the reference of passing time.
"Laser diodes improve the performance of virtually all types of atomic clocks. They are one of the LTF's main research directions," says Gaetano Mileti, deputy director of LTF.
"This research focuses on the study of new physical processes generated by laser light in clocks and on the more technological aspects related to the development of the laser itself, as a new specific component."
More generally, the development of any instrument using laser diodes whose beam frequency can be controlled very precisely still opens perspectives beyond the measurement of time.
Thus future applications could be the analysis of the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere involved in the greenhouse effect, or the gravitational wave detection, both critical to fundamental physics.