We provide customers and partners with access to trusted and reliable time, and push the boundaries of timing technologies
NPL operates the national time scale UTC(NPL) and the UK primary frequency standards, and uses these to contribute to global timekeeping. We also disseminate accurate time and frequency to users across the UK, via services such as the MSF radio time signal, our internet time service, and NPLTime®. Atomic timekeeping underpins technologies that are part of our daily lives, such as mobile phones, the internet and global navigation satellite systems.
We carry out a broad programme of research in time and frequency metrology. We are developing and characterising a new generation of optical atomic clocks which are based on laser-cooled trapped ions and atoms. Although improvements to the stability and accuracy of these clocks are ongoing, they already surpass the performance of existing caesium primary standards. We participate in European collaborations to verify the international consistency of the new clocks. This work is expected to lead to a redefinition of the SI unit of time, the second. Optical atomic clocks have the potential to improve satellite navigation systems and measurements of the Earth's gravity potential, as well as test fundamental physical theories.
We are developing compact and user-friendly frequency standards for applications in navigation, high-speed communications, security and defence. We are also applying the techniques that underpin atomic clocks to develop new quantum sensors such as atomic magnetometers and inertial sensors.
Time and frequency is part of the wider quantum activities in NPL known as the Quantum Metrology Institute.