Developing the Most Accurate Clock EverCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: March 9, 2012 05:48PM
Every clock ever designed relies on counting some regular event, such as the swing of a pendulum, the deformation of a quartz crystal, and the cycling of an electron. Atomic clocks energize an electron from its ground state to a specific energy level, and let it fall back down. The time it takes for the electron to jump and fall is almost constant, which allows an atomic clock to be accurate for millions of years. There is still some room for error though so experiments that require the utmost accuracy are limited. The nuclear clock may be the answer.
Researchers at the University of South Wales propose a clock which will use a neutron orbiting in a nucleus as the regular event. Thanks to how tight the neutron’s orbit is to nucleus, the potential for external disruptions is so low the proposed clock would be off by at most 0.05 seconds in 14 billion years. The accuracy of atomic clocks is needed for GPS, particle accelerators, and high-bandwidth data transfers to operate, and while it may take some time before a nuclear clock is built and incorporated into these systems, the benefits could be quite amazing.