What Is An Atomic Clock?

The atomic clock is a kind of clock that utilizes atomic resonance frequency as its timekeeping feature. These clocks show the exact time and frequency standards and are identified as the primary standards for international time and manage and organize the frequency of the television broadcasts and GPS satellite services.


The atomic clock uses the resonance frequency of atoms as its resonator. A resonator is operated by the frequency of the microwave electromagnetic radiation absorbed or emitted by the molecule or atom’s energy change. Thus an atomic clock generates standard frequencies. These are installed at various sites to show time signals. Alpha navigation transmitters and LORAN C. Atomic clocks are very useful in long wave and short wave broadcasting stations to deliver an exact frequency that can act as the standard frequency. Also, atomic clocks have been used in a long-baseline interferometer in radio-astronomy.

Atomic clocks do not use radioactivity when they change energy levels; instead, atoms emit microwave signals. Earlier atomic clocks used masers with fixed equipment. Presently, precise atomic clocks use absorption spectroscopy of cold atoms in atomic fountains such as the NIST-F1.

Recent radio clocks can be attributed to atomic clocks, and it offers a high-quality atomic time over a large area using inexpensive equipment. Anyway, radio atomic clocks are not used in scientific works because it does not show the precise international time. But many retailers sell radio clocks as atomic clocks; even though these clocks receive signals from accurate atomic clocks, they are not atomic clocks.

Radio clocks tune into the radio signal emitted by the US atomic clock placed in Fort Collins, Colorado. These radio clocks reset themselves several times in a day to get the precise hour, minute, and seconds and change to daylight savings time. Radio clocks accurate even to the seconds and are very easy to use. Get a radio clock, fix the batteries, and set the zone, and the clock will do the rest.

The benefit of using atomic clocks is that atoms resonate at an exceedingly correct frequency. For instance, if you take an atom from the cesium and make it resonate, it will resonate at the same frequency as any other atom in the cesium. This kind of accuracy is not seen in quartz clocks. In a quartz clock, the oscillation is close to standard frequency, but the tolerances make every crystal different. This causes a change in frequency. Cesium atom constantly resonates at an unchanged frequency, and this makes atomic clocks precise.

Many new technologies have enabled the prototype atomic clocks. These clocks are rather optical than microwave conversion. The main problem in the optical clock is the difficulty of measuring directly optical frequencies.

Atomic clocks work based on a GPS navigation system. The GPS clock is the weighted average clock at the ground station, and at the GPS satellites, each has many atomic clocks.

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