Following the success of Danish researchers working in conjunction with NIST (National Institute for Standards and Time), who unveiled the world’s most accurate atomic clock earlier this year; German scientist have entered the race to build the world’s most precise timepiece.
Researchers at the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) in Germany are using use new methods of spectroscopy to investigate atomic and molecular systems and hope to develop a clock based around a single aluminium atom.
Most atomic clocks used for satellite navigation (GPS), as references for computer network NTP servers and air traffic control have traditionally been based on the atom caesium. However, the next generation of atomic clocks, such as the one unveiled by NIST which is claimed to be accurate to within a second every 300 million years, uses the atoms from other materials such as strontium which scientists claim can be potentially more accurate than caesium.
Researchers at PTB have opted to use single aluminium atoms and believe they are on the way to developing the most accurate clock ever and believe there is huge potential for such a device to help us understand some of the more complicated aspects of physics.
The current crop of atomic clocks allow technologies such as satellite navigation, air traffic control and network time synchronisation using NTP servers but it is believed the increases accuracy of the next generation of atomic clocks could be used to reveal some of the more enigmatic qualities of quantum science such as string theory.
Researchers claim the new clocks will provide such accuracy they will even be able to measure the minute differences in gravity to within each centimetre above sea-level.