Time is money readers, therefore measuring time accurately is crucial. However, there are some people who want to be more than just ‘accurate’ when it comes to measuring time and are working to come up with clocks that won’t lose/gain a single second over time. One such clock is the ‘Strontium Lattice Clock,’ which is so precise that it won’t lose or gain a second even in 5 billion years. Overwhelmed? We are, too. The grand clock is about 50% more accurate when compared with the previous record holder clock invented by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), named as Quantum Logic Clock.
The clock has been developed at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA) located in US by a team composed of members from University of Colorado and NIST. The team was led by Dr. Jun Ye who, upon unveiling of this clock in Nature earlier, said, “We already have plans to push the performance even more. 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 five to 10 years.”
The Strontium Lattice Clock makes use of some thousand atoms of strontium that are held in a column with laser optical traps. Scientists detect the clock’s ticking when atoms bathe in a highly stable laser light (red in color). The frequency – precise for the laser – triggers the switch between energy levels for the atoms. There are 430 trillion ‘ticks’ in a second – that should convey how precise the clock is.
Dr. Ye said, “Our aim is that we’ll have a clock that, during the entire age of the universe, would not have lost a second.” The clock, however, has hit a hurdle where it has been noticed that time doesn’t pass at the same rate and varies with gravity. In fact, if you take a clock and place it on the wall, Dr. Ye explained, “the time will speed up by about one part in 1016.”
He added, “Lift it just a couple of centimeters and you will start to see that difference. At this level, maintaining absolute time scale on earth is in fact turning into nightmare. This clock they’ve built doesn’t just look chaotic. It is turning our sense of time into chaos.”
The solution to this chaotic problem given by Dr. Ye is to send off Strontium Lattice Clock in the space. Only then we would be able to have a clock that doesn’t lose a single second during the entire life of the universe.
Sounds pretty darn cool!