PerspectiveMETROLOGY

Synchronized to an optical atomic clock

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Science  22 May 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6493, pp. 825-826
DOI: 10.1126/science.abb8629

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Summary

Metrology, the science of measurement, is at the heart of all scientific endeavors. Of all parameters, frequency is the most accurately measurable quantity in the scientific portfolio. Tabletop experiments can generate highly accurate and stable frequencies that are being used to challenge the tenets of fundamental physics (1) as well as for specific applications such as the synchronization of large-scale radio telescope arrays (2). Optical atomic frequency standards have the intrinsic capacity to attain higher levels of stability and accuracy than microwave-based standards. Microwave technology, used in every sector of society, would benefit greatly from similar performance. On page 889 of this issue, Nakamura et al. introduce an experimental system with the ability to transfer the precise phase and accuracy of optical clock signals into the electronic domain, while demonstrating a fractional frequency instability of one part in 1018 (3). This result brings the superior performance of an optical frequency standard into the microwave regime.

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