Science Articles

WHAT IS AN ATOMIC CLOCK?

Atomic clocks are extremely important for working in GPS receivers. Atomic clocks are very important for a lot of scientific tasks.

Atomic clocks are extremely important for working in GPS receivers. Atomic clocks are very important for a lot of scientific tasks. The international standard for the length of a second is largely dependent on atoms. Ever since 1967, a second is officially known to be 9192631770 cycles of radiation that can make caesium atom to vibrate between its two energy states.

Basically, whenever the electrons (subatomic particles orbiting the nucleus of an atom) are exposed to radio waves or other frequencies of radiation, the electrons tend to jump back and forth between the energy states. Atomic clocks are the clocks based on the jumping form of electrons for counting seconds. It uses the resonating frequencies of atoms as a resonator for calculating seconds.

THE ADVANTAGES OF USING ATOMIC CLOCK

The main advantage of the atomic clock is that there is consistency in frequencies used by atoms for resonating. By taking an atom of caesium and comparing it with another atom of caesium, the frequency of resonance of primary will be exactly same as that of the other. Even the quartz clock isn’t even that accurate as the accuracy of an atomic clock.

When it comes to quartz clock, the quartz crystal is manufactured in such a way that it matches the oscillating frequency as that of the standard frequency. However, temperature and manufacturing tolerances can make the crystal change the frequency. But a caesium atom undergoes resonance at the same known frequency always. The atomic clocks are hence very precise.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Cesium atoms are passed through the radio waves down a tube inside the caesium atomic clock. They undergo 9192631770 cycles per second for resonating and changing their initial energy state. The tube has a detector at the end which keeps on counting a number of atoms changing their energy states.

The radio frequency is exactly tuned to this set frequency in order to reach the frequency. The detector then later gives the information back to the radio wave generator. The peak numbers of caesium atoms that strike it are synchronized with the frequency of radio waves while other electronics in the clock tend to count the frequency.

Whenever the set frequency is met, the second is ticked off. First made in the 1950s, the first quality of atomic clocks was also based on caesium atoms. Since the development of technology, the precision of atomic clocks has changed drastically. This leaves no space for errors.

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