As described in a paper published in Nature, the JILA strontium lattice clock is some 50% more precise than the previous record holder, the NIST quantum logic clock. Engineered by the Jun Ye Group at the University of Colorado, Boulder, the strontium clock uses only a few thousand atoms of the element to help keep time.
Packed into a lattice of 100 pancake shaped traps, the JILA clock’s strontium atoms are bathed in an extremely stable red laser light, exciting them to jump between energy levels. These jumps, which occur some 430 trillion times per second, represent the quantum ticks of this hyper accurate device and result in the timepiece’s incredible performance.
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