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World’s most stable laser created by NIST/JILA and German researchers
Boulder, CO—An international collaboration of scientists at NIST/JILA and a group at Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB; Braunschweig, Germany), the German counterpart of NIST, has developed and tested the world’s moststable laser, with frequency variation of no more than 2 parts in 10,000 trillion. As reported in Nature Photonics online, the achievement represents a new approach for constructing high-quality optical cavities that will bring more than an order of magnitude improvement over prior designs. The scientists say that in particular, the work will accelerate progress in development of optical clocks, which operate at frequencies more than 10,000 times higher than the approximately 9.2 GHz microwaves used as the basis of the current worldwide time standard.
In addition, the novel laser design is expected to usher in a new level of precision to research in gravitational wave detection on Earth and in space, and precision tests of relativity as well as fundamental physics research in cavity quantum electrodynamics and quantum optomechanics.
“The previous stability limit of about 2 X 10-16 was good,” says study co-author Jun Ye of JILA and PML’s Quantum Physics Division. “But it prevented us from exploring the full potential of modern optical atomic clocks where the atomic coherence time can be exceedingly long. The potential of pushing the laser stability better by an order of magnitude will allow us to realize atomic clocks that have unprecedented stability approaching 1 x 10-17 over 1 second.”
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