Skip to main content

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.

Field of science

  • /natural sciences/physical sciences/optics
  • /natural sciences/chemical sciences/inorganic chemistry/inorganic compounds
  • /natural sciences/physical sciences/atomic physics
  • /natural sciences/physical sciences/quantum physics/quantum optics
  • /engineering and technology/mechanical engineering/vehicle engineering/automotive engineering/autonomous vehicle
  • /natural sciences/physical sciences/optics/laser physics

Call for proposal

H2020-FETOPEN-2014-2015-RIA
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

RIA - Research and Innovation action

Coordinator

TECHNISCHE UNIVERSITAET WIEN
Address
Karlsplatz 13
1040 Wien
Austria
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 900 000

Participants (6)

PHYSIKALISCH-TECHNISCHE BUNDESANSTALT
Germany
EU contribution
€ 656 250
Address
Bundesallee 100
38116 Braunschweig
Activity type
Research Organisations
LUDWIG-MAXIMILIANS-UNIVERSITAET MUENCHEN
Germany
EU contribution
€ 606 250
Address
Geschwister Scholl Platz 1
80539 Muenchen
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
RUPRECHT-KARLS-UNIVERSITAET HEIDELBERG
Germany
EU contribution
€ 288 750
Address
Seminarstrasse 2
69117 Heidelberg
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
JYVASKYLAN YLIOPISTO
Finland
EU contribution
€ 247 827,50
Address
Seminaarinkatu 15
40100 Jyvaskyla
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
MAX-PLANCK-GESELLSCHAFT ZUR FORDERUNG DER WISSENSCHAFTEN EV
Germany
EU contribution
€ 327 500
Address
Hofgartenstrasse 8
80539 Muenchen
Activity type
Research Organisations
TOPTICA PHOTONICS AG
Germany
EU contribution
€ 943 750
Address
Lochhamer Schlag 19
82166 Graefelfing
Activity type
Private for-profit entities (excluding Higher or Secondary Education Establishments)