April 19, 2018

A step closer to the nuclear clock

Oscillations in the atomic nucleus of thorium-229 to be used as pulse generator for future nuclear clocks

Precise time measurements play a vital role in our daily life. They allow reliable navigation and accurate experimenting and provide a basis for world-wide synchronized exchange of data. A team of researchers of PTB Braunschweig, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU), Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), the Helmholtz Institute Mainz (HIM), and GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt now reports on a decisive step toward the potential development of a nuclear clock, which bears the potential to significantly outperform the best current atomic clocks. The only known excited state of an atomic nucleus that is located at a suitably low excitation energy to be accessible by optical techniques, as they are in use in current atomic clocks, exists in thorium-229. Fundamental properties of thorium-229 in this state have now been determined, the researchers report in the current issue of the journal Nature.
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Johannes Thielking, PTB scientist, with the laser setup used for investigating the thorium-229 nucleus.
Credit: PTB Braunschweig