Making optical atomic clocks more stable with 10-16 level laser stabilization
Andrew D. Ludlow, Yanyi Jiang, Nathan D. Lemke, Richard W. Fox, Jeffrey A. Sherman, Long-Sheng Ma, Christopher W. Oates
The superb precision of an atomic clock is derived from its stability. Atomic clocks based on optical (rather than microwave) frequencies are attractive because of their potential for high stability, which scales with operational frequency. Nevertheless, optical clocks have not yet realized this vast potential, due in large part to limitations of the laser used to excite the atomic resonance. To address this problem, we demonstrate a cavity-stabilized laser system with a reduced thermal noise floor, exhibiting a fractional frequency instability of 2 × 10-16. We use this laser as a stable optical source in a Yb optical lattice clock to resolve an ultranarrow 1 Hz linewidth for the 518 THz clock transition. With the stable laser source and the signal to noise ratio (S/N) afforded by the Yb optical clock, we dramatically reduce key stability limitations of the clock, and make measurements consistent with a clock instability of 5 × 10-16 / √Τ.