Atomic clock at CU Boulder sets new records in precision and stability

JILA strontium clock project ushers in a new era in precision timekeeping


The world’s most precise clock now resides on the campus of the University of Colorado Boulder according to a Jan. 22 press release.

A group of researchers at JILA, a joint physics institute of CU Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, described the optical clock, which is based on strontium atoms, in a paper in the journal Nature.

From CU’s press release:

“… the JILA strontium lattice clock is about 50 percent more precise than the record holder of the past few years, NIST’s quantum logic clock. Precision refers to how closely the clock approaches the true resonant frequency at which its reference atoms oscillate between two electronic energy levels. The new strontium clock is so precise it would neither gain nor lose one second in about 5 billion years, if it could operate that long. (This time period is longer than the age of the Earth, an estimated 4.5 billion years old.)”

Researchers are saying this is only the beginning:

“’We already have plans to push the performance even more,’ said NIST/JILA Fellow and group leader Jun Ye, who is also an adjoint professor of physics at CU-Boulder. ‘So in this sense, even this new Nature paper represents only a ‘mid-term’ report. You can expect more new breakthroughs in our clocks in the next 5 to 10 years.’”

Read the full press release here.