# Synopsis: Cross-Country Time Keeping

A new distance record is set in the fiber transmission of stable frequency signals capable of synchronizing atomic clocks.

Next-generation atomic clocks are so precise they can’t be synchronized remotely with traditional communication pathways. Researchers are therefore investigating novel synchronization methods. A new milestone in this development is presented in Physical Review Letters, with the longest distance transmission of a highly stable optical frequency. The signal was sent back and forth across Germany on optical fibers, while keeping a fixed frequency to within a few parts in ${10}^{19}$.

Several applications, such as navigation and fundamental physics, require the comparison of clocks at large physical separation. In geodesy, for example, the time difference between two distant clocks can provide relative elevation measurements with centimeter precision. Currently, clock signals are relayed by satellite communication, but the frequency of these radio signals drifts over time by as much as a few parts per ${10}^{16}$. Higher stability is needed to compare recently developed optical atomic clocks that have precisions on the order of one part in ${10}^{17}$.

Several past experiments have shown that optical fibers can faithfully transmit a clock-synchronizing frequency signal over hundreds of kilometers. Stefan Droste of Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, Germany, and his colleagues have now sent a highly stable $194$ terahertz ($1542$ nanometer) frequency over a distance of $1840$ kilometers, doubling their previous record. The team achieved this result by equipping the dedicated optical fiber connecting two German research institutions with active stabilization to overcome frequency shifts from thermal noise and acoustic noise. The method might one day link together optical clocks around the world. – Michael Schirber

### Announcements

More Announcements »

## Previous Synopsis

Particles and Fields

## Next Synopsis

Atomic and Molecular Physics

## Related Articles

Atomic and Molecular Physics

### Synopsis: Losing Light in a BEC

The index of refraction in a gas of bosons is enhanced relative to its value in a classical gas, a predicted quantum effect that has now been observed in ultracold sodium atoms. Read More »

Optics

### Synopsis: Light Tuner Slows Down to Shift

A new design for an optical frequency shifter combines a tunable filter and slow-light techniques. Read More »

Atomic and Molecular Physics

### Focus: Atoms As Thermometers

A small number of atoms in repeated trials can accurately measure the temperature of an ultracold gas cloud—a step toward measuring temperature on the micrometer scale. Read More »