Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New "pendulum" for the ytterbium clock

09.03.2012
A transition which can only be excited with difficulty in the ytterbium ion allows an extremely high accuracy

The faster a clock ticks, the more precise it can be. Due to the fact that lightwaves vibrate faster than microwaves, optical clocks can be more precise than the caesium atomic clocks which presently determine time.


The ion trap of the ytterbium clock at PTB.
(picture: PTB)

The Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) is even working on several of such optical clocks simultaneously. The model with one single ytterbium ion caught in an ion trap is now experiencing another increase in accuracy. At PTB, scientists have succeeded in exciting a quantum-mechanically strongly "forbidden" transition of this ion and - in particular - in measuring it with extreme accuracy. The optical clock based on it is exact to 17 digits after the decimal point. The results are published in the current edition of the scientific journal "Physical Review Letters".

Optical transitions are the modern counterpart of the pendulum of a mechanical clock. In atomic clocks, the "pendulum" is the radiation which excites the transition between two atomic states of different energy. In the case of caesium atomic clocks, it lies in the microwave range, in the case of optical clocks in the range of laser light so that their "pendulum" oscillates with higher velocity and optical clocks are - consequently - regarded as the atomic clocks of the future.

In the experiment performed at PTB, the scientists devoted themselves to a special forbidden transition. In quantum mechanics, "forbidden" means that the jump between the two energy states of the atoms is almost impossible due to the conservation of symmetry and angular momentum. The excited state can then be very persistent: In the case investigated here, the lifetime of the so-called F-state in the ytterbium ion Yb+ amounts to approx. 6 years. Due to this long lifetime, an extremely narrow resonance - whose linewidth only depends on the quality of the laser used - can be observed during the laser excitation of this state. A narrow resonance line is an important prerequisite for an exact optical clock. At the British National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the sister institute of PTB, the laser excitation of this Yb+-F state from the ground state was achieved for the first time in 1997. As the transition is, however, strongly forbidden, a relatively high laser intensity is required for its excitation. This disturbs the electron structure of the ion as a whole and leads to a shift of the resonance frequency so that an atomic clock based on it would exhibit a rate depending on the laser intensity.

At PTB it has now been possible to show that alternating excitation of the ion with two different laser intensities allows the unperturbed resonance frequency to be determined with high accuracy. Due to this, it has become possible to investigate other frequency shifts often occurring in atomic clocks - e.g. by electric fields or the thermal radiation of the environment. It has turned out that these are unexpectedly small in the case of the Yb+-F state, which can be attributed to the special electronic structure of the state. This is a decisive advantage for the further development of this atomic clock. In the experiments at PTB, the relative uncertainty of the Yb+ frequency was determined with 7 · 10-17. This corresponds to an uncertainty of the atomic clock of only approx. 30 seconds over the age of the universe.

Both groups at NPL and PTB have measured the frequency of the Yb+ transition with their caesium clocks and the results agree within the scope of the uncertainties (1 · 10-15 and 8 · 10-16) which are mainly determined by the caesium clocks. In a research project recently approved within the scope of the European Metrology Research Programme, the two institutes will in future cooperate with other European partners even more intensively in the development of this optical clock. In the case of the Yb+ ion, it is of particular interest that it has two transitions which are suitable for optical clocks: Less strongly forbidden, but also very precise, the excitation of the D-level can be used at a wavelength of 436 nm. This opens up the possibility of investigating the accuracy of the optical clock by frequency comparisons of the two transitions in one ion, without having to refer to a caesium clock.

Scientific publications
PTB experiment:
N. Huntemann et al.: High-accuracy optical clock based on the octupole transition in 171Yb+.
Phys. Rev. Lett. 108,090801 (2012)

NPL experiment:
S. A. King et al.: Absolute frequency measurement of the 2S1/2 - 2F7/2 electric octupole transition in a single ion of 171Yb+ with 10-15 fractional uncertainty. New J. Phys. 14, 013045 (2012)
Contact
Dr. Ekkehard Peik, PTB Department 4.4 Time and Frequency, phone: +49 (0)531) 592-4400, e-mail: ekkehard.peik@ptb.de

Dr. Ekkehard Peik | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ptb.de

Further reports about: 171Yb+ PTB Yb+ Yb+-F optical clock optical clocks pendulum ytterbium clock

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions
27.04.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history
26.04.2017 | Southwest Research Institute

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>