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Atomic Devices and Instrumentation Group



The NIST Atomic Devices and Instrumentation (ADI) Group designs, builds, and characterizes innovative miniature atomic instruments and sensors using precision atomic spectroscopy and fabrication techniques traditionally used in the field of microelectronics and micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS).

Work to develop chip-scale atomic clocks, a technology pioneered at NIST between 2001 and 2005, demonstrated an atomic clock physics package with a volume below 10 mm3 running on 75 mW of power. The first chip-scale atomic clock physics package, constructed and first operated at NIST in 2003, is currently on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space museum in Washington, D. C. This work was first published in Applied Physics Letters and a patent on the device was issued by the US Patent and Trademark Office in 2004. Chip-scale atomic clocks have been commercialized and are beginning to be used in applications ranging from GPS and wireless communications to oil exploration.

Current research is focused on three main areas. 

  • Chip scale atomic magnetometers are based vapor cell technology similar to that developed for atomic clocks, and currently achieve sensitivities competitive with state-of-the-art cryogenic instruments but require no cooling. We are exploring the use of these sensors in the measurement of biomagnetic fields produced by the human heart and brain.
  • Highly compact primary frequency standards and atom interferometer inertial sensors based on laser-cooled atoms.
  • Other chip-based metrology tools being developed to enable SI-traceable standards that realize SI units in a compact, inexpensive chip-scale device.

Please visit the links below for more information.


Cold-Atom Devices—The cooling of atoms to microkelvin temperatures using lasers is currently enabling a new generation of precision instruments that take advantage of the long interaction times and weak …

Vapor Cell Devices—We are developing microfabricated high-performance atomic magnetometers for magnetic anomaly detection, nuclear magnetic resonance and biomagnetics.

NIST-on-a-Chip in the ADI Group—We are developing core technology tools to enable chip-scale standards that realize a broad range of base and derived SI units in compact, manufacturable packages.


Time and Frequency Division
National Institute of Standards and Technology
Mail Stop 847
325 Broadway
Boulder, CO 80305-3334

We have regular openings for graduate students and post-docs. Please e-mail John Kitching for more information

John Kitching Group Leader, NIST Fellow 303-497-4083
Svenja Knappe Project Leader 303-497-3334
Elizabeth Donley Project Leader 303-497-5173
Susan SchimaTechnician303-497-7213