Forget Atomic Clocks – Nuclear Clocks Are The New King
Cernescu Andrei / 4 years ago
It’s true that none of us really need extremely accurate clocks for our time-telling needs, but the accuracy of atomic and nuclear clocks is definitely appreciated in science. Back in 1949, the first atomic clock in the world was built, and the way it worked was by counting the vibrations of atoms, which made it vastly superior when compared to modern-day quartz-based products. To this day, atomic clocks have remained the most accurate timekeeping devices, which makes sense since they can be so precise that they can lose less than half a second over 15 billion years. However, it looks like atomic clocks might be replaced by nuclear clocks in the near future thanks to a team of researchers that worked closely with a few institutions in Germany. The new nuclear clocks would be an order of magnitude more precise when compared to atomic clocks, which is definitely an improvement.
The team has come up with a “low-energy microchannel plate detection technique” that would allow nuclear clocks to track atoms’ transitions from an excited state to a ground state. The process involves firing electrons into a phosphorus-made screen, which produces visible light that can be captured by a camera. The resulting signals come from thorium-229 – a very important isotope that shows off the slowest, most trackable of atom transitions. Nuclear clocks could have interesting applications as they could help test physics constants, improve earthquake detection systems or help researchers search for dark matter.