The Cryogenic Sapphire Oscillator is one of the most precise clocks ever invented — and it’s not just keeping time, it’s keeping Australia safe. Researchers at the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing in Adelaide, Australia in conjunction with Cryoclock, have, for the past 20 years been working on developing the Oscillator which they have dubbed the “Sapphire Clock.” It is 1,000 times more precise than any other commercial system currently available and ticks 10 billion times per second. The “cryogenic” in the device’s real name comes from the 1,200-carat sapphire crystal that needs to be cooled to minus 267 degrees Celsius (around 512 degrees Fahrenheit) — only a few degrees above absolute zero. Accuracy in timing is an important aspect of electronics systems we use every day, such as GPS. However, the chief application of the Sapphire Clock would be to upgrade the sensitivity of radar signalling in JORN, an over-the-horizon radar network that acts as an early warning system in Australia’s defence capabilities. You can watch a video on the achievement below: The radar network plays a role in Australia’s ability to detect foreign threats by air or sea by broadcasting a signal that is reflected of a foreign object and then detected by a receiver back on land in Australia. The more “pure” that signal is, the better capacity the radar network has to detect smaller, slower objects at greater distance. “The sensitivity to detect objects at great distances depends on the purity of the reference clock frequencies…. [Read full story]
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