Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

The .gov means it’s official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.


The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Synchronization of clocks through 12km of strongly turbulent air over a city



Laura C. Sinclair, William C. Swann, Hugo Bergeron, Esther Baumann, Michael A. Cermak, Ian R. Coddington, Jean-Daniel Deschenes, Fabrizio R. Giorgetta, Juan Juarez, Isaac H. Khader, Keith G. Petrillo, Katherine T. Souza, Michael L. Dennis, Nathan R. Newbury


We demonstrate real-time, femtosecond-level clock synchronization across a low-lying, strongly turbulent, 12-km horizontal air path by optical two-way time transfer. For this long horizontal free-space path, the integrated turbulence extends well into the strong turbulence regime corresponding to multiple scattering with a Rytov variance up to 7 and with the number of signal interruptions exceeding 100 per second. Nevertheless, optical two-way time transfer is used to synchronize a remote clock to a master clock with femtosecond-level agreement and with a relative time deviation dropping as low as a few hundred attoseconds. Synchronization is shown for a remote clock based on either an optical or microwave oscillator and using either tip-tilt or adaptive-optics free-space optical terminals. The performance is unaltered from optical two-way time transfer in weak turbulence across short links. These results confirm that the two-way reciprocity of the free-space time-of-flight is maintained both under strong turbulence and with the use of adaptive optics. The demonstrated robustness of optical two-way time transfer against strong turbulence and its compatibility with adaptive optics is encouraging for future femtosecond clock synchronization over very long distance ground-to-air free-space paths.
Applied Physics Letters


frequency comb, two-way optical time frequency transfer, synchronization
Created October 11, 2016, Updated November 10, 2018