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Atomic Clocks


Guide to Radio-Controlled, Atomic Clocks

Alexanderplatz atomic clock, Berlin, Germany Atomic clocks used today are based on physics technology that involves cold atoms and atomic fountains.  A real atomic clock contains an atomic oscillator and uses its frequency to measure the passage of time.  Some so-called atomic clocks are actually radio controlled clocks that contain miniature radio receivers and use a quartz crystal to keep time.  These clocks rely on an atomic clock located elsewhere to maintain their timekeeping precision.

Early atomic clocks were actually masers with equipment attached.  The first accurate atomic clock was built in London in 1955, by a man named Louis Essen.  Following the building of this clock, it was internationally agreed that the definition of the second was based on atomic time.

radio controlled clock So, how exactly does an atomic clock work?  The atomic clock's core is comprised of a microwave cavity.  Inside this cavity is ionized gas, a radio oscillator, and a feedback loop.  The feedback loop is used to adjust the oscillator.  The oscillator must be adjusted to the frequency of the absorption characteristic defined by the individual atoms' behavior.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, based in Boulder, Colorado, operates an atomic clock and broadcasts the standard time on radio station WWVB, at a frequency of 60 kHz.  Radio controlled clocks periodically receive this 60 kHz radio signal to synchronize their time with the NIST atomic clock.

nist atomic fountain clock If you wish to access the atomic clock on your personal computer, via the Internet, Atom Time is a desktop Windows application that connects to the Atomic Clock time server computer and fetches the current time value.  It compares your PC time to this value and displays the difference.

Whether you wish to purchase a radio controlled, atomic clock or are simply looking for more information on atomic clocks, the resources on will have the answers you are looking for.  Take some time to peruse the suppliers and information sources listed below.

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  • Atomic Clocks Online
    Offers a broad selection of radio controlled clocks and watches.

Atomic Clock Manufacturers

This NIST web clock
shows the time of day
in 12-hr or 24-hr format.

Atomic Time Resources

digital atomic clock
Digital Atomic Clock

Atomic Clock Solution Providers

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Atomic Clocks - Radio Controlled Clocks