Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A quantum mechanical ’tune up’ for better measurement

07.06.2004


By exploiting the weird quantum behavior of atoms, physicists at the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have demonstrated a new technique that someday could be used to save weeks of measurements needed to operate ultraprecise atomic clocks. The technique also could be used to improve the precision of other measurement processes such as spectroscopy.

The technique, described in today’s issue of Science, effectively turns atoms into better frequency sensors. Eventually, the technique could help scientists measure the ticks of an atomic clock faster and more accurately. Just as a grandfather clock uses the regular swings of a pendulum to count off each second of time, an atomic clock produces billions of ticks per second by detecting the regular oscillations of atoms. The trick to producing extremely accurate atomic clocks is to measure this frequency very precisely for a specific atom.

In the latest experiment, the scientists used very brief pulses of ultraviolet light in a NIST-developed technique to put three beryllium ions (charged atoms) into a special quantum state called entanglement. In simple terms, entanglement involves correlating the fates of two or more atoms such that their behavior--in concert--is very different from the independent actions of unentangled atoms. One effect is that, once a measurement is made on one atom, it becomes possible to predict the result of a measurement on another. When applied to atoms in an atomic clock, the effect is that n entangled atoms will tick n times faster than the unentangled atoms.



Currently, scientists at NIST and other laboratories make many thousands of measurements of the ticks of unentangled atoms and average these results to get highly accurate atomic clocks (currently keeping time to better than one second in 40 million years).

If entangled atoms could be used in a clock, the same or better results could be achieved with far fewer separate measurements. The current experiment demonstrates this new approach to precision measurement with three ions; however, the researchers are looking forward to entangling even more ions to take greater advantage of the technique.

"Even if we could implement this new technique with only 10 ions, in the clock business that’s really important because the clocks must be averaged for weeks and even months," says NIST physicist Dave Wineland, leader of the research group. "The time needed to do that would be reduced by a factor of 10."

In the experiment reported in Science, scientists entangled the ions with two laser beams, using a technique originally developed for quantum computing applications. The ions are hit with another series of laser pulses and their fluorescence (emitted light, which represents the ions’ quantum state) is measured for a specific period of time. The duration of the steps, number of ions, and other experimental conditions are controlled carefully to ensure all the ions are in the same state when they are measured, so that either all or none fluoresce, which simplifies the readout.


###
The research was supported in part by the Advanced Research and Development Activity and the National Security Agency.

As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Technology Administration, NIST develops and promotes measurement, standards and technology to enhance productivity, facilitate trade and improve the quality of life.


Laura Ost | NIST
Further information:
http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/quantumtuneup.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht SF State astronomer searches for signs of life on Wolf 1061 exoplanet
20.01.2017 | San Francisco State University

nachricht Molecule flash mob
19.01.2017 | Technische Universität Wien

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: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>