July 29 - A new optical lattice clock, designed in France, is so precise its creators say it could help improve the resolution of global positioning systems (GPS), help Smartphones download data faster and refine high-frequency trading on financial markets. The research team at the Paris Observatory who devised it says it will neither gain nor lose a second over a period of 300 million years. Tara Cleary has more.
This is one of the most accurate timepieces ever built. Developer Rodolphe Le Targat says the optical lattice clock won't gain or lose a second in 300 million years ... that's three times more accurate than atomic clocks currently used around the world to set time. Atomic clocks detect the oscillations or movements of atoms within the element caesium to measure time. The lattice clock differs. It uses lasers to gauge oscillations of atoms in the element strontium, which according to Le Targat, makes a big difference. SOUNDBITE: RODOLPHE LE TARGAT, PARIS OBSERVATORY RESEARCHER, SAYING (English): "The idea is to go toward clocks working with atoms oscillating faster and faster. So here we work with strontium atoms, for instance. To give you an idea their oscillation speed is roughly 40,000 times faster than the oscillation of the caesium atom." Faster oscillation speeds produce a more accurate dissection of time. And while a tiny difference in the precision of time measurement may seem superfluous, it could make a big impact on technologies that we rely on every day. SOUNDBITE: RODOLPHE LE TARGAT, PARIS OBSERVATORY RESEARCHER, SAYING (English): "You have an atomic clock that is on board each of the satellites of the GPS constellation and it's the precision with which you will be able to locate a point on earth is directly linked to the level of performance of the clocks. So we could dream that if ever we manage to make these clocks more compact and if we manage to send them in some satellites we could have a level of resolution for the positioning systems that will be even better or even faster." How and when the new clock will be utlilised is a question that Le Targat says .... only time will tell.