MIT experts have transcended that paradigm, delving into the intricacies of quantum mechanics to enhance the accuracy of timekeeping. This advancement holds the potential to discern even the slightest fluctuations caused by dark matter. These whizzes have proposed a method to outwit the so-called quantum limit, a pesky barrier to the stability of oscillators, including the lasers at the heart of atomic clocks, by giving the quantum states a "squeeze," MIT News reports.
Here's the scoop: Even the world's most sophisticated atomic clocks, the big dogs of chronometry, get their seconds shredded by quantum noise. MIT's researchers, led by assistant professor of mechanical engineering Vivishek Sudhir and his star pupil, physicist Hudson Loughlin, have sussed out a scheme to trim down the errors in timekeeping, despite the perpetual instability tossed at us by quantum mechanics. "What we’ve shown is, there’s actually a limit to how stable oscillators like lasers and clocks can be; that’s set not just by their environment but by the fact that quantum mechanics forces them to shake around a little bit," Sudhir disclosed in a statement obtained by MIT News.
Their study, available for all on Nature Communications, simplifies lasers down to their jiggling electrons and bouncing photons, mapping out where this quantum noise slips in and scrambles stability. By “squeezing” one part of the quantum noise, our timekeepers could strike a sharpness surpassing their quantum constraints. This quantum mechanics manipulation, as the MIT paper proposes.
"We plan to demonstrate several instances of lasers with quantum-enhanced timekeeping ability over the next several years," Hudson Loughlin said in an exclusive chat with MIT News.
The research is backed by the National Science Foundation.