Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ytterbium for Next-Generation Atomic Clocks

Cesium has been the element of choice, thus far, for the most accurate clocks. It is in use in our civilian time standard.

But make way, Cesium:

An experimental atomic clock based on ytterbium atoms is about four times more accurate than it was several years ago, giving it a precision comparable to that of the NIST-F1 cesium fountain clock, the nation's civilian time standard, scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) report in Physical Review Letters.

This photo shows about 1 million ytterbium atoms illuminated by a blue laser in an experimental atomic clock that holds the atoms in a lattice made of intersecting laser beams. The photo was taken with a digital camera through the window of a vacuum chamber. NIST is studying the possible use of ytterbium atoms in next-generation atomic clocks based on optical frequencies, which could be more stable and accurate than today's best time standards, which are based on microwave frequencies. (Credit: Barber, NIST)

1 million ytterbium atoms illuminated by a blue laser

[via: ScienceDaily]

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