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Towards a nuclear clock with Thorium-229

Objective

Atomic clocks are the backbone of our modern communication and navigation technology, e.g. through the global positioning system (GPS). Improving these clocks will open up exciting new applications in geodesy, fleet tracking, autonomous vehicles, augmented reality and shed light on some of the most fundamental questions in research.

Today’s best atomic clocks lose only 1 second in 30 billion years, making them the most precise measurement devices ever built. However, such clocks are extremely delicate and susceptible to external perturbations; they can only be operated in specialized laboratories.

We propose to develop a novel type of clock, based on a unique nuclear transition in Thorium-229. This nuclear clock will be fundamentally different from existing atomic clocks, which are based on transitions in the electron shell. It will be largely inert to perturbations, simpler by design, and holds the potential to outperform existing atomic clocks in terms of precision.
So far, progress towards an application of the Thorium nuclear transition has been hampered by the extreme technological challenges related to the scarcity of 229Th, insufficient detector resolution, and exotic lasers frequencies. Suitable technology is only becoming available just now. Furthermore, this research demands supreme expertise in a variety of fields, encompassing nuclear and atomic physics, quantum optics, metrology, as well as detector- and laser technology. Our interdisciplinary consortium is assembled to precisely match these requirements, joining for the first time Europe’s leading research groups in the respective fields.

The work will focus on two objectives; (i) finding clear evidence of the transition and measuring its frequency, and (ii) developing all key components required for operation of a nuclear clock. We are certain that next-generation satellite-based navigation technology and other precision timing applications will greatly benefit from more precise and robust clocks.

Call for proposal

H2020-FETOPEN-2014-2015

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Sub call

H2020-FETOPEN-2014-2015-RIA

Coordinator

TECHNISCHE UNIVERSITAET WIEN
Net EU contribution
€ 900 000,00
Address
Karlsplatz 13
1040 Wien
Austria

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Region
Wien Wien
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Non-EU contribution
€ 0,00

Participants (6)

PHYSIKALISCH-TECHNISCHE BUNDESANSTALT
Germany
Net EU contribution
€ 656 250,00
Address
Bundesallee 100
38116 Braunschweig

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Region
Niedersachsen Braunschweig Braunschweig, Kreisfreie Stadt
Activity type
Research Organisations
Non-EU contribution
€ 0,00
LUDWIG-MAXIMILIANS-UNIVERSITAET MUENCHEN
Germany
Net EU contribution
€ 606 250,00
Address
Geschwister Scholl Platz 1
80539 Muenchen

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Region
Bayern Oberbayern München, Kreisfreie Stadt
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Non-EU contribution
€ 0,00
RUPRECHT-KARLS-UNIVERSITAET HEIDELBERG
Germany
Net EU contribution
€ 288 750,00
Address
Seminarstrasse 2
69117 Heidelberg

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Region
Baden-Württemberg Karlsruhe Heidelberg, Stadtkreis
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Non-EU contribution
€ 0,00
JYVASKYLAN YLIOPISTO
Finland
Net EU contribution
€ 247 827,50
Address
Seminaarinkatu 15
40100 Jyvaskyla

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Region
Manner-Suomi Länsi-Suomi Keski-Suomi
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Non-EU contribution
€ 0,00
MAX-PLANCK-GESELLSCHAFT ZUR FORDERUNG DER WISSENSCHAFTEN EV
Germany
Net EU contribution
€ 327 500,00
Address
Hofgartenstrasse 8
80539 Munchen

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Region
Bayern Oberbayern München, Kreisfreie Stadt
Activity type
Research Organisations
Non-EU contribution
€ 0,00
TOPTICA PHOTONICS AG
Germany
Net EU contribution
€ 943 750,00
Address
Lochhamer Schlag 19
82166 Graefelfing

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SME

The organization defined itself as SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) at the time the Grant Agreement was signed.

Yes
Region
Bayern Oberbayern München, Landkreis
Activity type
Private for-profit entities (excluding Higher or Secondary Education Establishments)
Non-EU contribution
€ 0,00