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Time and frequency

Laser-cooled ytterbium ion microwave clock

Developing the next-generation portable atomic clock

The laser-cooled ytterbium ion microwave clock is a next-generation portable atomic clock that incorporates technology from NPL’s laboratory-based national standards to achieve performance beyond that which is currently available. This performance will enable its application as a master clock that is independent from vulnerable satellite timing systems. 

The success of the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) in distributing precision timing signals has enabled a huge market to emerge, from navigation to synchronising communication networks, which is reliant on the weak timing signals broadcast from these satellites. These signals are a single point of failure and vulnerable to jamming, spoofing and solar weather. Producing resilient alternatives for critical national infrastructure is a priority.  

Portable atomic clocks with performance exceeding the capabilities of GNSS offer both resilience for existing precision timing applications, and improved stability for new technologies. This technology would be of interest to companies developing the next set of portable atomic clocks which have customers within industries such as smart grids, critical national infrastructure, communication networks and ‘GNSS-denied’ environments such as underwater and conflict zones.  

NPL has had a rich history of innovation in atomic clocks. Currently, it is home to several of the world’s highest performance atomic clocks and experimental frequency standards. NPL has the facilities, standards, and expertise to develop and evaluate the performance of the highest-performance atomic clocks. 

Find out more about our research on compact atomic clocks

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