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Atomic clock precision could soon be used at home and work

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A new development in fibre optic technology could soon bring atomic clock precision to any home or business with a fibre connection, according to researchers at The University of Western Australia and the University of Adelaide.

Assistant Professor Sascha Schediwy, from UWA’s School of Physics, said the technology was no more complicated than that used in the National Broadband Network modems currently being installed in homes and businesses around Australia.

Published this week in the international Optics Letters journal, the paper’s co-authors include researchers from the Australian National University, Macquarie University, the National Measurement Institute, and Australia’s Academic and Research Network (AARNET).

Professor Schediwy said the researchers had discovered how to transmit timing signals generated from state-of-the-art atomic clocks, found in just a small number of top research laboratories, to potentially hundreds of end users simultaneously on existing optical fibre networks.

“The transmission system preserves the super-stability of these clocks, which only lose or gain a second after 3 billion years, a length of time comparable to the age of Earth.  Previous research aimed to send the clock signals to a single location, limiting their use to research applications,” he said.

“However, as this new technique can be deployed alongside internet traffic, it is now possible to use existing fibre networks and make this available to the wider community.”

Professor Schediwy said clocks were incredibly powerful tools for high-precision measurement, from fundamental research into Einstein’s theory of general relativity to enabling cosmology with giant radio telescopes, such as the Square Kilometre Array.

They can also be used for exploration geophysics or to monitor climate change through measuring sea level rises and the thickness of ice sheets.

Experiments were conducted over the AARNet network and AARNet’s eResearch Director Guido Aben is among the paper’s co-authors.

 

Read the complete University of Western Australia media release

Read the research paper: High-precision optical-frequency dissemination on branching optical-fiber networks  (Sascha W. Schediwy, David Gozzard, Kenneth G. H. Baldwin, Brian J. Orr, R. Bruce Warrington, Guido Aben, and Andre N. Luiten; Optics Letters, Vol. 38, Issue 15, pp. 2893-2896, 2013

 


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