Ultrastable optical clock with two cold-atom ensembles

M. Schioppo, R. C. Brown, W. F. McGrew, N. Hinkley, R. J. Fasano, K. Beloy, T. H. Yoon, G. Milani, D. Nicolodi, J. A. Sherman, N. B. Phillips, C. W. Oates, A. D. Ludlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

296 Citations (Scopus)


Atomic clocks based on optical transitions are the most stable, and therefore precise, timekeepers available. These clocks operate by alternating intervals of atomic interrogation with the € dead' time required for quantum state preparation and readout. This non-continuous interrogation of the atom system results in the Dick effect, an aliasing of frequency noise from the laser interrogating the atomic transition. Despite recent advances in optical clock stability that have been achieved by improving laser coherence, the Dick effect has continually limited the performance of optical clocks. Here we implement a robust solution to overcome this limitation: a zero-dead-time optical clock that is based on the interleaved interrogation of two cold-atom ensembles. This clock exhibits vanishingly small Dick noise, thereby achieving an unprecedented fractional frequency instability assessed to be for an averaging time., in seconds. We also consider alternate dual-atom-ensemble schemes to extend laser coherence and reduce the standard quantum limit of clock stability, achieving a spectroscopy line quality factor of Q > 4 × 10 15.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-52
Number of pages5
JournalNature Photonics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jan 3

Bibliographical note

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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