Atomic clock sets world records for precision, stability

The experimental atomic clock based on strontium atoms held in a lattice of laser light is now the world's most precise and stable atomic clock. 

Ye group and Baxley/JILA 

A clock made from strontium atoms and lasers has become the world’s most stable and precise timekeeper.

The experimental timepiece is an atomic clock that uses lasers to link the length of a second to the frequency of light that makes electrons in strontium atoms jump to a higher energy level. The new clock, described January 23 in Nature, is about 50 percent more precise than the previous record holder made of a single charged aluminum atom, and it rivals the ytterbium atomic clock for the title of most stable. 

The clock will improve physicists’ definitions of the standard units of measure in the metric system and test of the fundamental laws of nature, the team writes.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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