Quantum clock

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A quantum clock is a type of atomic clock with laser cooled single ions confined together in an electromagnetic ion trap. Developed in 2010 by physicists as the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, the clock was 37 times more precise than the then-existing international standard.[1] The quantum logic clock is based on an aluminium spectroscopy ion with a logic atom.

Both the aluminum-based quantum clock and the mercury-based optical atomic clock track time by the ion vibration at an optical frequency using a UV laser, that is 100,000 times higher than the microwave frequencies used in NIST-F1 and other similar time standards around the world. Quantum clocks like this are able to be far more precise than microwave standards.


A NIST 2010 quantum logic clock based on a single aluminum ion

The NIST team are not able to measure clock ticks per second because the definition of a second is based on the standard NIST-F1, which cannot measure a machine more precise than itself. However, the aluminum ion clock's measured frequency to the current standard is 1121015393207857.4(7) Hz.[2] NIST have attributed the clock's accuracy to the fact that it is insensitive to background magnetic and electric fields, and unaffected by temperature.[3]

In March 2008, physicists at NIST described an experimental quantum logic clock based on individual ions of beryllium and aluminum. This clock was compared to NIST's mercury ion clock. These were the most accurate clocks that had been constructed, with neither clock gaining nor losing time at a rate that would exceed a second in over a billion years.[4]

In February 2010, NIST physicists described a second, enhanced version of the quantum logic clock based on individual ions of magnesium and aluminium. Considered the world's most precise clock in 2010 with a fractional frequency inaccuracy of 8.6 × 10−18, it offers more than twice the precision of the original.[5] [6] In terms of standard deviation, the quantum logic clock deviates one second every 3.68 billion (3.68 × 109) years, while the then current international standard NIST-F1 Caesium fountain atomic clock uncertainty was about 3.1 × 10−16 expected to neither gain nor lose a second in more than 100 million (100 × 106) years.[7] [8] In July 2019, NIST scientists demonstrated such a clock with total uncertainty of 9.4 × 10−19 (deviates one second every 33.7 billion years), which is the first demonstration of a clock with uncertainty below 10−18.[9][10][11]

Quantum time dilation[edit]

"Two clocks are depicted as moving in Minkowski space. Clock B is moving in a localized momentum wave packet with average momentum pB, while clock A is moving in a superposition of localized momentum wave packets with average momentum pA and p0A. Clock A experiences a quantum contribution to the time dilation it observes relative to clock B due to its nonclassical state of motion."[12]

In a 2020 paper scientists illustrated that and how quantum clocks could experience a possibly experimentally testable superposition of proper times via time dilation of the theory of relativity by which time passes slower for one object in relation to another object when the former moves at a higher velocity. In "quantum time dilation" one of the two clocks moves in a superposition of two localized momentum wave packets,[further explanation needed] resulting in a change to the classical time dilation.[13][14][12]

Gravitational time dilation in everyday lab scale[edit]

In 2010 an experiment placed two aluminum-ion quantum clocks close to each other, but with the second elevated 12 in (30.5 cm) compared to the first, making the gravitational time dilation effect visible in everyday lab scales.[15]

In October 2021 a group at led by physicist Jun Ye reported the measurement of a time difference of 10−17 in an optical lattice clock between the top and the bottom of a millimeter-tall ultracold cloud of 100,000 strontium atoms which was excited by a laser to compare the ticking frequency between both halves. Great noise reduction was achieved by tuning of the magic wavelength[16][17]

More accurate experimental clocks[edit]

The accuracy of quantum clocks was briefly superseded by optical lattice clocks based on strontium-87 and ytterbium-171 until 2019.[9][10][11] An experimental optical lattice clock was described in a 2014 Nature paper.[18] In 2015 JILA evaluated the absolute frequency uncertainty of their latest strontium-87 429 THz (429228004229873.0 Hz[19]) optical lattice clock at 2.1 × 10−18, which corresponds to a measurable gravitational time dilation for an elevation change of 2 cm (0.79 in) on planet Earth that according to JILA/NIST Fellow Jun Ye is "getting really close to being useful for relativistic geodesy".[20][21][22] At this frequency uncertainty, this JILA optical lattice optical clock is expected to neither gain nor lose a second in more than 15 billion (1.5 × 1010) years.[23]

On February 16 2022 the journal Nature published that Jun Ye was able to use a Strontium-87 quantum lattice clock to observe gravitational redshift down to the 1 mm scale.[24][25] (Previous measurements had been limited to a minimum of 30 cm.)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ghose, Tia (5 February 2010). "Ultra-Precise Quantum-Logic Clock Puts Old Atomic Clock to Shame". Wired. Retrieved 2010-02-07.
  2. ^ Rosenband, T.; Hume, D. B.; Schmidt, P. O.; Chou, C. W.; Brusch, A.; Lorini, L.; Oskay, W. H.; Drullinger, R. E.; Fortier, T. M.; Stalnaker, J. E.; Diddams, S. A.; Swann, W. C.; Newbury, N. R.; Itano, W. M.; Wineland, D. J.; Bergquist, J. C. (28 March 2008). "Frequency Ratio of Al+ and Hg+ Single-ion Optical Clocks; Metrology at the 17th Decimal Place" (PDF). Science. 319 (5871): 1808–1812. Bibcode:2008Sci...319.1808R. doi:10.1126/science.1154622. PMID 18323415. S2CID 206511320. Retrieved 2013-07-31.
  3. ^ "Quantum Clock Proves to be as Accurate as World's Most Accurate Clock". azonano.com. 7 March 2008. Retrieved 2012-11-06.
  4. ^ Swenson, Gayle (7 June 2010). "Press release: NIST 'Quantum Logic Clock' Rivals Mercury Ion as World's Most Accurate Clock". NIST.
  5. ^ NIST's Second 'Quantum Logic Clock' Based on Aluminum Ion is Now World's Most Precise Clock, NIST, 4 February 2010
  6. ^ C.W Chou; D. Hume; J.C.J. Koelemeij; D.J. Wineland & T. Rosenband (17 February 2010). "Frequency Comparison of Two High-Accuracy Al+ Optical Clocks" (PDF). Physical Review Letters. 104 (7): 070802. arXiv:0911.4527. Bibcode:2010PhRvL.104g0802C. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.104.070802. PMID 20366869. S2CID 13936087. Retrieved 9 February 2011.
  7. ^ "NIST's Second 'Quantum Logic Clock' Based on Aluminum Ion is Now World's Most Precise Clock" (Press release). National Institute of Standards and Technology. 4 February 2010. Retrieved 2012-11-04.
  8. ^ "NIST-F1 Cesium Fountain Atomic Clock: The Primary Time and Frequency Standard for the United States". NIST. August 26, 2009. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
  9. ^ a b Brewer, S. M.; Chen, J.-S.; Hankin, A. M.; Clements, E. R.; Chou, C. W.; Wineland, D. J.; Hume, D. B.; Leibrandt, D. R. (2019-07-15). "Al + 27 Quantum-Logic Clock with a Systematic Uncertainty below 10 − 18". Physical Review Letters. 123 (3): 033201. arXiv:1902.07694. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.123.033201. PMID 31386450. S2CID 119075546.
  10. ^ a b Wills, Stewart (July 2019). "Optical Clock Precision Breaks New Ground".
  11. ^ a b Dubé, Pierre (2019-07-15). "Viewpoint: Ion Clock Busts into New Precision Regime". Physics. 12. doi:10.1103/Physics.12.79. S2CID 199119436.
  12. ^ a b Smith, Alexander R. H.; Ahmadi, Mehdi (23 October 2020). "Quantum clocks observe classical and quantum time dilation". Nature Communications. 11 (1): 5360. arXiv:1904.12390. Bibcode:2020NatCo..11.5360S. doi:10.1038/s41467-020-18264-4. ISSN 2041-1723. PMC 7584645. PMID 33097702. CC BY icon.svg Available under CC BY 4.0 (some content of it has been used here).
  13. ^ "Timekeeping theory combines quantum clocks and Einstein's relativity". phys.org. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  14. ^ O'Callaghan, Jonathan. "Quantum Time Twist Offers a Way to Create Schrödinger's Clock". Scientific American. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  15. ^ "Einstein's time dilation apparent when obeying the speed limit" (Press release). Ars Technica. 24 September 2010. Retrieved 2015-04-10.
  16. ^ Bothwell, Tobias; Kennedy, Colin J.; Aeppli, Alexander; Kedar, Dhruv; Robinson, John M.; Oelker, Eric; Staron, Alexander; Ye, Jun (2022). "Resolving the gravitational redshift across a millimetre-scale atomic sample". Nature. 602 (7897): 420–424. arXiv:2109.12238. Bibcode:2022Natur.602..420B. doi:10.1038/s41586-021-04349-7. PMID 35173346. S2CID 237940816.
  17. ^ McCormick, Katie (2021-10-25). "An Ultra-Precise Clock Shows How to Link the Quantum World With Gravity". Quanta Magazine. Retrieved 2021-10-29.
  18. ^ Bloom, B. J.; Nicholson, T. L.; Williams, J. R.; Campbell, S. L.; Bishof, M.; Zhang, X.; Zhang, W.; Bromley, S. L.; Ye, J. (22 January 2014). "An optical lattice clock with accuracy and stability at the 10–18 level". Nature. 506 (7486): 71–5. arXiv:1309.1137. Bibcode:2014Natur.506...71B. doi:10.1038/s41586-021-04349-7. PMID 24463513. S2CID 4461081.
  19. ^ Yasuda, Masami; Ido, Tetsuya. "Report from TCTF/TCL JWG on Optical Frequency Metrology, TCTF Meeting, Delhi, India, 27 November 2017". APMP. Asia-Pacific Metrology Programme. Retrieved 8 November 2021.
  20. ^ T.L. Nicholson; S.L. Campbell; R.B. Hutson; G.E. Marti; B.J. Bloom; R.L. McNally; W. Zhang; M.D. Barrett; M.S. Safronova; G.F. Strouse; W.L. Tew; J. Ye (21 April 2015). "Systematic evaluation of an atomic clock at 2 × 10−18 total uncertainty". Nature Communications. 6: 6896. arXiv:1412.8261. Bibcode:2015NatCo...6.6896N. doi:10.1038/ncomms7896. PMC 4411304. PMID 25898253.
  21. ^ JILA Scientific Communications (21 April 2015). "About Time". Archived from the original on 19 September 2015. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
  22. ^ Laura Ost (21 April 2015). "Getting Better All the Time: JILA Strontium Atomic Clock Sets New Record". National Institute of Standards and Technology. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  23. ^ James Vincent (22 April 2015). "The most accurate clock ever built only loses one second every 15 billion years". The Verge. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
  24. ^ Nield, David. "Atomic Clocks Experiment Reveals Time Dilation at The Smallest Scale Ever". Science Alert. Science Alert. Retrieved 17 February 2022.
  25. ^ Ye, Jun; Bothwell, Bothwell; Kennedy, Colin J.; Aeppli, Alexander; Kedar, Dhruv; Robinson, John M.; Oelker, Eric; Staron, Alexander (February 17, 2022). "Resolving the gravitational redshift across a millimetre-scale atomic sample". Nature. 602 (2022) (7897): 420–424. arXiv:2109.12238. Bibcode:2022Natur.602..420B. doi:10.1038/s41586-021-04349-7. PMID 35173346. S2CID 237940816. Retrieved 17 February 2022.