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World's smallest atomic clock in matchbox size

Sunday May 08, 2011 08:00:56 PM, IANS

Washington: Researchers have created an amazing, matchbook-sized atomic clock 100 times smaller than commercial versions with both military and commercial applications.

For instance, pocket-sized Chip Scale Atomic Clock (CSAC) could help divers engaged in deep-sea explorations plan ultra-precise operations with remote colleagues who also have atomic clocks, especially when the GPS singals are blocked by natural barriers.

The timekeeper would be invaluable for preventing phone signals from detonating improvised explosive devices or IEDs. Though GPS signals also would be blocked, a CSAC timekeeper would still function.

The CSAC, only about 1.5 inches on a side and less than a half-inch in depth, also requires 100 times less power than its predecessors.

Instead of 10 watts, it uses only 100 milliwatts. "It's the difference between lugging around a device powered by a car battery and one powered by two AA batteries," said Darwin Serkland, lead investigator of Sandia National Lab, US, according to a statement.

Despite common implications of the word "atomic," the clock does not use radioactivity as an energy source.

Instead, where an old-fashioned alarm clock uses a spring-powered series of gears to tick off seconds, a CSAC counts the frequency of electromagnetic waves emitted by cesium atoms struck by a tiny laser beam to determine the passage of time.

On a nationwide scale, relay stations for cross-country phone and data lines, which routinely break up messages into packets of information and send them by a variety of routes before reconstituting them correctly at the end of their voyages, would continue functioning during GPS outages.

 

 

 

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