NIST-F2: The World’s Most Accurate Clock, Won’t Miss A Second For 300 Million Years

Time is undoubtedly the most important thing in life and clock is the unique thing that helps us to keep in touch with time. Lately, scientists at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have made a new atomic clock NIST-F2, which they claim, is the world’s most accurate clock and won’t miss a second for 300 million years.


NIST-F2 is the latest in a series of cesium-based atomic clocks developed by NIST since the 1950s. NIST-F2 uses a ‘fountain’ of cesium atoms to determine the exact length of a second. According to the scientists, the new atomic clock is 3 times more accurate than previous atomic clock NIST-F1 and 100 times more accurate than Earth’s clocks those we use.

It is to be noted here that, both NIST-F1 and NIST-F2 measure the frequency of a particular transition in the cesium atom—which is 9,192,631,770 vibrations per second, and is used to define the second, the international (SI) unit of time. The key operational difference is that F1 operates near room temperature (about 27 ºC or 80 ºF) whereas the atoms in F2 are shielded within a much colder environment (at minus 193 ºC, or minus 316 ºF). This cooling dramatically lowers the background radiation and thus reduces some of the very small measurement errors that must be corrected in NIST-F1. Here’s a video of the clock.

NIST physicist Steven Jefferts, who is the lead designer of NIST-F2 has said, “If we’ve learned anything in the last 60 years of building atomic clocks, we’ve learned that every time we build a better clock, somebody comes up with a use for it that you couldn’t have foreseen.”

At present, NIST scientists have decided to simultaneously operate both NIST-F1 and NIST-F2 atomic clocks and observe them. They believe, long-term comparisons of the two clocks will help them continue to improve both clocks as the clocks serve as U.S. standards for civilian time.

Source: NIST

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