WASHINGTON (TIP): Scientists claim to have developed the world’s most precise clock made from the element ytterbium, whose ticking rate varies less than two parts in one quintillion – ten times better than any other device. A pair of experimental atomic clocks based on ytterbium atoms has set a new record for stability, researchers said. The clocks act like 21st century pendulums or metronomes that could swing back and forth with perfect timing for a period comparable to the age of the universe.
Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology said that the ytterbium clocks’ tick is more stable than any other atomic clock. Stability can be thought of as how precisely the duration of each tick matches every other tick. The ytterbium clock ticks are stable to within less than two parts in 1 quintillion (1 followed by 18 zeros), roughly 10 times better than the previous best published results for other atomic clocks, experts said.
This has the potential for significant impacts not only on timekeeping, but also on a broad range of sensors measuring quantities that have tiny effects on ticking rate of atomic clocks, like gravity, magnetic fields, and temperature.