Researchers Develop Blueprint for Nuclear Clock Accurate Over Billions of Years

Researchers Develop Blueprint for Nuclear Clock Accurate Over Billions of Years

Precision of Nuclear Clock Depends on Single Atom of Thorium

A clock accurate to within a tenth of a second over 14 billion years -- the age of the universe -- is the goal of research being reported this week by scientists from three different institutions. To be published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the research provides the blueprint for a nuclear clock that would get its extreme accuracy from the nucleus of a single thorium ion.

Such a clock could be useful for certain forms of secure communication -- and perhaps of greater interest -- for studying the fundamental theories of physics. A nuclear clock could be as much as one hundred times more accurate than current atomic clocks, which now serve as the basis for the global positioning system (GPS) and a broad range of important measurements.

"If you give people a better clock, they will use it," said Alex Kuzmich, a professor in the School of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology and one of the paper's co-authors. "For most applications, the atomic clocks we have are precise enough. But there are other applications where having a better clock would provide a real advantage."

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