Improving Time

10 Mar, 2013 | Guides & Resources
Improving Time

Scientists are continually looking to improve time-keeping and one essential ingredient is a better understanding of the properties of the atoms used in atomic clocks.

Now JQI researchers have come up with a novel method to measure the strength of two of rubidium’s atomic transitions with unprecedented accuracy.

They applied laser beams to rubidium atoms in such a way that cumulatively, the light shifts due to the probe they were using cancelled.

Only when the light has a certain wavelength will the contributions from different transitions exactly cancel – a “magic” wavelength where the atoms no longer feel the presence of the light.

The researchers then applied the standing wave repeatedly until the interference effects added up and tiny light shifts could be detected.

With this method, they determined the transition strength to an accuracy of 0.3 %, which is about 10 times better than previous calculations of this atomic transition.