This Is Why Hotter Clocks Are More Accurate

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New experiment reveals the hotter clocks that consume more energy are accurate in time keeping.

The most accurate clocks consuming more energy hint at a fundamental connection between energy consumption and accuracy. A team of scientists from Lancaster, Oxford, and Vienna set out to test the link between the two.

Going forward, scientists built a simple clock that contained a vibrating ultra-thin membrane, tens of nanometers thick and 1.5 millimeters in its length, and incorporated it into an electric circuit. The membrane generated one electrical tick on each oscillation.

The design was intended to find out the relation of heat and a clock’s accuracy, hence is powered simply by heating up the membrane. The complete flow of energy through the clock could be measured electrically. Upon experimenting, scientists found that the clock’s accuracy increased with more heat, making it that the clock’s accuracy was directly linked with the released heat. Double the heat showed the clock becoming twice as effective in timekeeping.

The experimental team comprised of Dr. Edward Laird at Lancaster University, Professor Marcus Huber at Atominstitut, TUWien, Dr. Paul Erker, and Dr. Yelena Guryanova at the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI), and Dr. Natalia Ares, Dr. Anna Pearson and Professor Andrew Briggs from Oxford.

Dr. Edward Laird of Lancaster University said: “The subject of thermodynamics, which incorporates the most fundamental principles of nature, tells us that there are two types of machine that we cannot operate without releasing heat. One is the mechanical engine, which releases heat to do work, and the other is the computer memory, which releases heat when it rewrites itself. This experiment – in conjunction with other work – suggests that clocks are also limited by thermodynamics. It also poses an intriguing question: are all possible clocks limited in this way, or is it just a property of the ones we have studied?”

The study published in the Physical Review X is the maiden attempt that a measurement has been made of the entropy, or heat loss, generated by a minimal clock.

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