(EETimes) Physicists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently revealed they have built an atomic clock that measures not a cloud of randomly oscillating atoms, as the best designs now measure, but instead atoms that have been quantumly entangled. This opens the door to a whole new world of quantum physics.
As for GNSS location technology, several U.K. companies and universities have teamed to make atomic clocks more accessible and practical via improved accuracy and miniaturization.
Leading the effort is Kelvin Nanotechnology of Glasgow, Scotland, a specialist in advanced photonics and quantum components. The effort also includes WideBlue, another Glasgow-based design specialist, along with researchers from the universities of Birmingham and Strathclyde.
Kelvin Nanotechnology will make the grating MOTs (magneto-optical traps) and compact collimation optics designed by WideBlue. The University of Strathclyde will design the gMOT chip, and its counterpart in Birmingham is responsible for testing the prototype optical system.
The collaboration focuses on the scaling an atomic clock by “reducing the optical constraints into scalable micro-fabricated components as a critical step to bringing laboratory performance out into real-world applications,” said James McGilligan, senior research associate for the project at Kelvin Nanotechnology.
The project is scheduled to last about 18 months. “While atomic clocks are already remarkably accurate, we are focusing on advanced micro-fabrication techniques and improvements in laser cooling optics to bring about significant reductions in the size and weight of the next generation of portable atomic clocks,” McGilliagan said.
David Burt, business development manager at Kelvin Nanotechnology, said weight considerations remain the focus atomic clocks used in satellite navigation systems, Still, “we see many commercial opportunities in other sectors, including defense, undersea oil and mineral exploration.”
According to Paul Griffin of Strathclyde’s physics department and the university’s lead researcher, the project is “tackling head-on the difficult problem of taking research-grade technology from the laboratory and into practical and scalable quantum devices.”

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