Synopsis: Cross-Country Time Keeping

A new distance record is set in the fiber transmission of stable frequency signals capable of synchronizing atomic clocks.
Synopsis figure
MPQ (WoogieWorks, Vienna)

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 1019.

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 1016. Higher stability is needed to compare recently developed optical atomic clocks that have precisions on the order of one part in 1017.

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 »

Subject Areas

Atomic and Molecular PhysicsOptics

Previous Synopsis

Particles and Fields

Neutron Bursts in Lab Lightning

Read More »

Next Synopsis

Atomic and Molecular Physics

Photonic Matchmaking

Read More »

Related Articles

Viewpoint: Ionization Delays That Stand Out
Optics

Viewpoint: Ionization Delays That Stand Out

Attosecond-resolution experiments have determined the delay in an electron’s emission from a molecule after being ionized with light. Read More »

Focus: Giant Molecule Made from Two Atoms
Atomic and Molecular Physics

Focus: Giant Molecule Made from Two Atoms

Experiments confirm the existence of 1-micrometer-sized molecules made of two cesium atoms by showing that their binding energies agree with predictions.   Read More »

Focus: Choose the Number of Atoms in Your Cloud
Atomic and Molecular Physics

Focus: Choose the Number of Atoms in Your Cloud

A new technique allows researchers to specify the number of atoms in an ultracold cloud (in the millions) and then to reproduce that same number in repeated experiments. Read More »

More Articles