Tiny Atomic Clock Made for US Soldiers

High-precision atomic clocks soon to be carried by US soldiers for “smart” grenade launchers, GPS enhancement, anti-jamming devices, etc. — Click to Tweet.

U.S. Soldiers may soon carry yet another piece of cutting-edge technology into battle.

Older atomic clocks can often cost upwards of $10,000, but the military is developing a much-smaller version of this technology. The new clocks cost just $300 and take up less than one cubic inch of space.

As John Del Colliano, chief of the positioning, navigation, and timing branch of the communication-electronics RD&E center at the US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command says, “You’re not going to put something that expensive in a disposable piece of equipment; however, you can put a $300 component into a piece of equipment that’s going to explode.”

Atomic Clocks?
Atomic clocks aren’t related to explosives, or anything else “nuclear.” But they do keep time with extreme accuracy by using the orbiting electrons of an atom as their timekeepers.

Most clocks can drift by a few seconds or even minutes after some time, but atomic clocks can be relied upon to keep impeccably accurate time no matter what. They’re often used to synchronize the timing of different weapon systems and ensure accurate location information on units employed in battle.

Atomic particles can be used to measure passing time with almost complete accuracy.

An atomic clock was even put on a mission to the moon, and its time was compared to another atomic clock back on Earth. After returning, the times had changed slightly, which helped prove Einstein’s theory of relativity many years after he’d already come up with it.

Military Use
One of the biggest military uses is in GPS technology. Sometimes enemy forces will “spoof” a unit’s GPS by sending false signals. But with atomic clocks in the GPS receivers, a false signal would be spotted immediately. Troops might not even know the spoofing was attempted.

This technology might make its way into consumer devices. There it could lead to dozens of new applications.

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