Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sussex scientists one step closer to a clock that could replace GPS and Galileo

12.03.2019

Physicists in the EPic Lab at University of Sussex make crucial development in global race to develop a portable atomic clock

Scientists in the Emergent Photonics Lab (EPic Lab) at the University of Sussex have made a breakthrough to a crucial element of an atomic clock - devices which could reduce our reliance on satellite mapping in the future - using cutting-edge laser beam technology.


Drawing of a pulse propogating in the chip.

Credit: EPic Lab, University of Sussex

Their development greatly improves the efficiency of the lancet (which in a traditional clock is responsible for counting), by 80% - something which scientists around the world have been racing to achieve.

Currently, the UK is reliant on the US and the EU for the satellite mapping that many of us have on our phones and in our cars. That makes us vulnerable not only to the whims of international politics, but also to the availability of satellite signal.

Dr Alessia Pasquazi from the EPic Lab in the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex explains the breakthrough: "With a portable atomic clock, an ambulance, for example, will be able to still access their mapping whilst in a tunnel, and a commuter will be able to plan their route whilst on the underground or without mobile phone signal in the countryside. Portable atomic clocks would work on an extremely accurate form of geo-mapping, enabling access to your location and planned route without the need for satellite signal.

"Our breakthrough improves the efficiency of the part of the clock responsible for counting by 80%. This takes us one step closer to seeing portable atomic clocks replacing satellite mapping, like GPS, which could happen within 20 years. This technology will changes people's everyday lives as well as potentially being applicable in driverless cars, drones and the aerospace industry. It's exciting that this development has happened here at Sussex."

Optical atomic clocks are at the pinnacle of time measuring devices, losing less than one second every ten billion years. Curently though, they are massive devices, weighing hundreds of kilograms. In order to have an optimal practical function that could be utilised by your average person, their size needs to be greatly reduced whilst retaining the accuracy and speed of the large-scale clocks.

In an optical atomic clock, the reference (the pendulum in a traditional clock) is directly derived by the quantum property of a single atom confined in a chamber: it is the electromagnetic field of a light beam oscillating hundreds of trillions of times per second. The clock counting element required to work at this speed is an optical frequency comb - a highly specialised laser emitting, simultaneously, many precise colours, evenly spaced in frequency.

Micro-combs bring down the dimension of frequency combs by exploiting tiny devices named optical microresonators. These devices have captured the imagination of the scientific community world-wide over the past ten years, with their promise of realising the full potential of frequency combs in a compact form. However, they are delicate devices, complex to operate and typically do not meet the requirement of practical atomic clocks.

The breakthrough at the EPic Lab, detailed in a paper published today (Monday 11 March) in the journal, Nature Photonics, is the demonstration an exceptionally efficient and robust micro-comb based on a unique kind of wave called a 'laser cavity soliton'.

Dr Pasquazi continues: "Solitons are special waves that are particularly robust to perturbation. Tsunamis, for instance, are water solitons. They can travel unperturbed for incredible distances; after the Japan earthquake in 2011 some of them even reached as far as the coast of California.

"Instead of using water, in our experiments performed by Dr Hualong Bao, we use pulses of light, confined in a tiny cavity on a chip. Our distinctive approach is to insert the chip in a laser based on optical fibres, the same used to deliver internet in our homes.

"The soliton that travels in this combination has the benefit of fully exploiting the micro-cavities' capabilities of generating many colours, whilst also offering the robustness and versatility of control of pulsed lasers. The next step is to transfer this chip-based technology to fibre technology - something that we're exceptionally well-placed at the University of Sussex to achieve."

Professor Marco Peccianti from the University of Sussex EPic Lab adds: "We are moving towards the integration of our device with that of the ultra-compact atomic reference (or pendulum) developed by Professor Matthias Keller's research group here at the University of Sussex. Working together, we plan to develop a portable atomic clock that could revolutionise the way we count time in the future.

"Our development represents a significant step forward in the production of practical atomic clocks and we're extremely excited by our plans, which range from partnerships with the UK aerospace industry, which could come to fruition within five years, through to portable atomic clocks that could be housed in your phone and within driverless cars and drones within 20 years."

###

The full paper is published in can be accessed here from that time: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41566-019-0379-5

Media Contact

Anna Ford
a.ford@sussex.ac.uk
01-273-678-111

 @sussexunipress

http://www.sussex.ac.uk 

Anna Ford | EurekAlert!
Further information:
https://www.sussex.ac.uk/news/all?id=48070
http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41566-019-0379-5

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht The magic wavelength of cadmium
16.09.2019 | University of Tokyo

nachricht Tomorrow´s coolants of choice
16.09.2019 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf

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: Happy hour for time-resolved crystallography

Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Hamburg and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) outstation in the city have developed a new method to watch biomolecules at work. This method dramatically simplifies starting enzymatic reactions by mixing a cocktail of small amounts of liquids with protein crystals. Determination of the protein structures at different times after mixing can be assembled into a time-lapse sequence that shows the molecular foundations of biology.

The functions of biomolecules are determined by their motions and structural changes. Yet it is a formidable challenge to understand these dynamic motions.

Im Focus: Modular OLED light strips

At the International Symposium on Automotive Lighting 2019 (ISAL) in Darmstadt from September 23 to 25, 2019, the Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, a provider of research and development services in the field of organic electronics, will present OLED light strips of any length with additional functionalities for the first time at booth no. 37.

Almost everyone is familiar with light strips for interior design. LED strips are available by the metre in DIY stores around the corner and are just as often...

Im Focus: Tomorrow´s coolants of choice

Scientists assess the potential of magnetic-cooling materials

Later during this century, around 2060, a paradigm shift in global energy consumption is expected: we will spend more energy for cooling than for heating....

Im Focus: The working of a molecular string phone

Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Potsdam (both in Germany) and the University of Toronto (Canada) have pieced together a detailed time-lapse movie revealing all the major steps during the catalytic cycle of an enzyme. Surprisingly, the communication between the protein units is accomplished via a water-network akin to a string telephone. This communication is aligned with a ‘breathing’ motion, that is the expansion and contraction of the protein.

This time-lapse sequence of structures reveals dynamic motions as a fundamental element in the molecular foundations of biology.

Im Focus: Milestones on the Way to the Nuclear Clock

Two research teams have succeeded simultaneously in measuring the long-sought Thorium nuclear transition, which enables extremely precise nuclear clocks. TU Wien (Vienna) is part of both teams.

If you want to build the most accurate clock in the world, you need something that "ticks" very fast and extremely precise. In an atomic clock, electrons are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Society 5.0: putting humans at the heart of digitalisation

10.09.2019 | Event News

Interspeech 2019 conference: Alexa and Siri in Graz

04.09.2019 | Event News

AI for Laser Technology Conference: optimizing the use of lasers with artificial intelligence

29.08.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Turbine from the 3D printer

18.09.2019 | Materials Sciences

Novel mechanism of electron scattering in graphene-like 2D materials

17.09.2019 | Materials Sciences

Novel anti-cancer nanomedicine for efficient chemotherapy

17.09.2019 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>