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Home / unitedkingdom / Super-cold atomic clocks can sniff gravitational waves, dark matter • The Register

Super-cold atomic clocks can sniff gravitational waves, dark matter • The Register

Physicists have designed super accurate atomic clocks that might be able to detect gravitational waves and dark matter by means of those phenomena that affect gravity and therefore time.

Fools experiment with super cool ytterbium, rare earth elements, to measure time travel, and see how gravity affects it.

Gravitational waves and dark matter have an effect on gravity, and thus time, the variation that can be detected by this precise clock, indicates a good phenomenon. That is the outline of this scientific work.

How it works

The research team, led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the United States, said their atomic clocks were sensitive enough to measure gravitational distortion of time on Earth and in space.

The device works by cooling the ytterbium atom to several microkelvin – a smidgen above absolute zero – and holds them between a series of laser beams organized in an optical lattice.

Time can be traced by counting the number of oscillations of something that vibrates at a known fixed frequency: time is equal to the number of oscillations divided by frequency. In this experiment, the laser beam excites ytterbium atoms, and the electrons oscillate by leaps between energy levels, allowing time to be measured. Deviations in the time observed by these two hours in this way show some external effects.

Importantly, this device is said to be more accurate than we have ever seen before. Scientists have previously used atomic clocks to push the effects of gravity on time.

Gears hour, photo via: Shutterstock

Four hydrogen + eight cesium hours = one Einstein theory that is almost proven


The boffin described their work in a paper published in Nature on Wednesday.

As you would expect, if two of these clocks are placed at different heights near the Earth's surface, the higher ones will beat slightly faster than the lower ones, due to the dilation of classical time.

The difference in time between ticks and their forks can be further changed if a large enough gravitational wave passes through it. And if the clocks are sent into space, they might be able to take the effects of dark matter, or test general relativity.

"Einstein first predicted in general the theory of relativity that gravity changes time, an effect sometimes called gravity redshift. "With regard to observers given, time (and devices that measure time – hours) seems to evolve more slowly deeper in gravitational potential," said the team paper, adding:

To summarize in one word: interesting. ®

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