Solid-state Optical Atomic Clocks

We have developed an optical atomic clock that is both precise enough to detect gravitational waves, and compact and portable enough that it could be put on a satellite. Our clock design makes use of a “two-photon transition” in calcium atoms. Novel aspects:

  1. First solid-state optical atomic clock concept. Can lead to with precision better than 1 part in 1018
  2. Reduced inhomogeneous broadening by the use of zero nuclear spin isotopes of rare-earth atomic ions doped into a crystal
  3. Will lead to portable device that can be used for high-precision navigation and deep-space satellite navigation
  4. Can be used to make a precise, portable and robust all-optical frequency standard, when combined with an optical frequency comb

OPPORTUNITY All clocks are based on stable oscillators, whether they are grandfather clocks using pendulum oscillators, or sundial clocks that rely on the steady rotation of the earth. In an optical atomic clock, the steady oscillator is a laser, which is regulated using the quantum oscillations of atoms. Optical atomic clocks are the most precise clocks in existence today. The lasers in these clocks have frequencies of 100s of terahertz, meaning that these clocks tick about a quadrillion (one million billion) times per second. Ours is a solid-state optical atomic clock based on a transparent crystal doped with selected atomic ions.


  • Work is now being on an optical atomic clock and qubit operating at wavelengths in the telecommunications band
  • Patent pending




Communications , Computer Hardware , Distance Mapping , Navigation , Space

VPRI Contact

Fabio Almeida

Technology Commercialization Manager
Innovations & Partnerships Office (IPO)
(416) 946-7248

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