Karol Bagh | IAS GS Foundation Course | 29 May, 6 PM Call Us
This just in:

State PCS

Daily Updates

Important Facts For Prelims

Atomic Clock

  • 13 Jun 2024
  • 6 min read

Source: TH

Why in News?

In a recent study published in the scientific journal Nature, a new type of portable Optical atomic clock was introduced for use on ships.

  • This new iodine clock is not as precise as an optical atomic clock used in a laboratory but it is more portable and durable. It gains or loses a second every 9.1 million years.

What are Atomic Clocks?

  • About:
    • It is an advanced timekeeping device that utilises the natural vibrations of atoms to measure time with exceptional accuracy.
    • It was developed by Louise Essen in 1955. Presently, India has operational atomic clocks located in Ahmedabad and Faridabad.
  • Key Features:
    • Atomic clocks are far more precise than conventional clocks because atomic oscillations have a much higher frequency and are much more stable.
    • Atomic clocks are very accurate, with traditional atomic clocks losing or gaining one second over 300 million years, while optical atomic clocks can maintain this precision for 300 billion years.
    • A caesium atomic clock loses or gains a second every 1.4 million years.
  • Working:
    • Caesium (Cs) atomic clocks operate by causing Cs atoms to transition to a higher energy level, which is linked to the frequency of microwave radiation and the measurement of time in seconds.
    • In this process, Cs atoms are placed in a cavity, and microwave radiation with a specific frequency is directed towards them. When the frequency of the radiation matches the energy transition of the Cs atoms, it creates a resonance phenomenon. The Cs atoms absorb this radiation and move to a higher energy state. This transition occurs precisely when the frequency of the radiation is 9,192,631,770 Hz.
      • This means that when a Cs-133 atom undergoes 9,192,631,770 oscillations between its energy levels, one second has elapsed.
    • The precision of atomic clocks is achieved through a system that detects any deviations in the resonance frequency and makes adjustments to the microwave radiation to maintain resonance.

  • Optical Atomic Clock:
    • They are even more accurate than Atomic Clocks.
    • These clocks use lasers to stimulate atomic transitions, producing highly coherent light where all emitted light waves have the same frequency and stable wavelengths.
    • It is different from Atomic Clock due to:
      • Higher Operating Frequency: Optical atomic clocks operate at higher frequencies, allowing them to complete more oscillations in a given time frame compared to traditional atomic clocks.
        • This enables them to measure smaller increments of time more accurately due to the increased number of cycles counted within that time period.
      • Narrower linewidth: These have much narrower linewidths (range of frequencies) over which the atomic transition occurs. A narrower linewidth makes it easier to precisely tune the frequency of the optical light that triggers the resonance, leading to higher accuracy and more precise time measurements.
    • The element strontium (Sr) is commonly used in optical atomic clocks due to its narrow linewidths and stable optical transitions.

What are the Applications of Optical Atomic Clocks?

  • Self-Reliance and National Security: India's reliance on foreign atomic clocks, especially those from the US, poses a risk to critical infrastructure like NavIC (Indian GPS) in times of conflict.
    • Creating domestic atomic clocks will provide independent timekeeping, enhancing national security.
  • Enhanced Accuracy and Reliability: Atomic clocks offer unmatched precision compared to conventional methods. By deploying them across the nation, India can synchronise all digital devices with Indian Standard Time (IST), ensuring a unified and highly accurate time reference.
  • Time synchronisation through optical atomic clocks will benefit various sectors:
    • Telecommunications: Precise timing minimises errors and facilitates seamless data transfer in communication networks.
    • Financial Systems: Accurate timestamps for financial transactions safeguard against fraud, especially in high-frequency trading.
    • Cybersecurity: Atomic clocks play a crucial role in India's digital economy by ensuring the accuracy of timestamps for transactions, which helps prevent fraud, maintain data integrity, and enhance cybersecurity measures.
    • Critical Infrastructure and Power Grids: Atomic clocks play a vital role in synchronising critical infrastructure, including power grids, transportation systems, and emergency services.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Question (PYQ)


Q.1 Which one of the following countries has its own Satellite Navigation System? (2023)

a. Australia
b. Canada
c. Israel
d. Japan

Ans: d

SMS Alerts
Share Page