Optical atomic clocks, the most precise instruments ever constructed, work by locking the frequency of laser to the resonance of an atomic transition.

As well as the canonical application of clocks (positioning, navigation, and timing), their unparalleled stability makes them exceptional tools for fundamental physics studies as well, including as probes for exotic physics, and searches for dark matter.

There are currently groups working to develop an optical clock using the single-ionised radium atom, which may have several exciting applications.

In order to develop the most accurate atomic clocks, a thorough theoretical understanding of the atomic properties is required.

This may be achieved by calculating the atomic wavefunctions using highly-precise atomic structure methods, which will be used and developed in this project.

Quantities that must be calculated include atomic spectra, lifetimes of excited states, atomic polarisabilities, transition rates, light shifts (the perturbation of atomic levels by the lasers required for the clock operation), black-body radiation shifts, and many others.

Project members

Dr Benjamin Roberts