EMPIR project investigates the next generation of atomic clocks

Time is money

The work of European project on atomic clocks features in videos

Completed EMPIR project Coulomb Crystals for Clocks (17FUN07, CC4C) investigated laser-cooled trapped ions for optical clocks. A Coulomb crystal is an unusual form of matter, behaving like a solid at very low density and very low temperature, and offering favorable properties as the reference in an atomic clock. The project examined novel ion sources, implemented an advanced form of laser cooling, and developed transportable equipment to enable experiments to be carried out at nuclear physics and optical measurement laboratories. By supporting the reliability and precision of trapped ion optical clocks, this project helps to meet growing need for stable and accurate time for example in 5G telecommunication networks, and provides an essential contribution to the revised International System of Units (SI).



The work of the project has been described in a number of films and papers:

  • Bloomberg TV produced a film about time dilation and clocks entitled Atomic Clocks are Reinventing Time which was published on Bloomberg TV and YouTube and has attracted more than 790k views
  • The YouTube channel Breaking Lab produced a feature on the nuclear clock with the help of the Technical University of Vienna TU Wien. Published under the title Kernuhr - die genaueste Uhr der Welt (The most accurate clock in the world), the video has been viewed more than 190k times 

Project Coordinator Ekkehard Peik from PTB said

‘We are very pleased with the interest in this research, both by the scientific community and by the general public. Atomic clocks are an enabling technology for navigation and communication, and they offer new insight in fundamental physics. The nuclear clock that is investigated here is a game changer that promises to push the frontiers considerably further.’

This EMPIR project is co-funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the EMPIR Participating States.

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