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Ultracold Atoms and Precise Time Standards



Gretchen K. Campbell, William D. Phillips


Experimental techniques of laser cooling and trapping, along with other cooling techniques have produced gaseous samples of atoms so cold that they are, for many practical purposes, in the quantum ground state of their center-of-mass motion. Such low velocities have virtually eliminated effects such as Doppler shifts, relativistic time dilation, and observation-time-broadening that previously limited the performance of atomic frequency standards. Today the best laser-cooled, cesium atomic fountain, microwave frequency standards realize the SI definition of the second to a relative accuracy of ~3 X 10^(-16). Optical frequency standards, which do not realize the SI second, have even better performance: cold neutral atoms trapped in optical lattices now yield relative systematic uncertainties of ~ 1 x 10^(-16), while cold, trapped ions have systematic uncertainties of 9 x 10^ (-18). We will discuss the current limitations in the performance of neutral atom atomic frequency standards and prospects for the future.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A-Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences


atomic clocks, primary frequency standards, ultracold atoms


Campbell, G. and Phillips, W. (2011), Ultracold Atoms and Precise Time Standards, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A-Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences, [online], (Accessed May 22, 2024)


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Created September 19, 2011, Updated November 10, 2018