Exploiting their very high precision, atomic clocks today are used extensively in demanding timekeeping applications.
These include a variety of navigation, communication, and remote sensing and imaging applications. The very best atomic clocks today, optical clocks, are among the most precise measurement devices of any kind. For example, the NIST ytterbium optical lattice clock can make frequency or time measurements with a staggering 18 digits of precision. This extreme precision can be leveraged for tests of fundamental physics, like the search for time-varying fundamental constants or dark matter. If these advanced laboratory clocks can be taken beyond the lab, their precision can be deployed for mapping earth’s gravity, studying geophysical processes, or testing general relativity. Portable optical clocks can also advance the global effort towards re-defining and modernizing our base unit of time, the SI second. Towards all of these goals, we have been developing a portable optical lattice clock to deliver state-of-the-art optical clock performance beyond the lab. Our current efforts include implementing new technologies and quantum tools to advance technology readiness of the portable clock, making detailed characterizations of the cold-atom timekeeper both in and out of the lab, and making a novel, ultra-stable cavity-stabilized laser for the portable clock. We will first be deploying the portable clock for next-generation geodesy measurements, as well as optical clock comparisons towards re-defining the second.
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