National Physical Laboratory

Time & Frequency Research

The Time and Frequency group carries out a broad range of research into improved frequency standards, time scales and methods of disseminating time and frequency.
  1. NPL maintains the national time scale and contributes to international time, provides accurate time and frequency to users across the UK, and researches improved time scales and time transfer methods.
  2. Microwave frequency standards are key to dissemination of high accuracy time services to UK science, technology and industry, and to compatibility with international timescales through world-wide time transfer and clock comparison.
  3. New types of atomic clock operating at optical rather than microwave frequencies promise significant advances in both science and technology and may lead to a future redefinition of the second.
  4. NPL's femtosecond combs are used to measure the frequencies of optical standards relative to our caesium fountain primary frequency standard and to compare optical standards operating at different frequencies.
  5. Advances in optical frequency standards and metrology are opening up new horizons in fundamental physics, enabling scientists to measure fundamental constants and test the laws of physics with unprecedented precision.


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