Scientists set sights on "best atomic clock in the world"

First published: 03-06-2009

The best atomic clock "in the world" is currently under development by researchers at the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) in Germany.

Scientists at the institute will use new methods of spectroscopy to investigate atomic and molecular systems.

Head of the institute Piet Schmidt is hoping to develop a clock based around a single aluminium atom, which may in turn be used to set the time across fashion and sports watch ranges like other atomic clocks.

The new clock, if successful, will be unique because researchers hope to attain an uncertainty of 10-18, where previously the best at PTB was only 10-15.

It could also help in other areas of measurement, explains Dr Schmidt.

He said: "The availability of such sensitive clocks will lead to other highly sensitive measuring instruments."

Dr Schmidt added that this technology could also be used to measure "change in the gravitational potential of the Earth with an accuracy corresponding to a height difference of one centimetre".

In April, scientists at the University of Copenhagen unveiled what they claimed is the most accurate clock in the world.

Designers indicated that the atomic clock will only drop one second every 300 million years.

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