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Precision Measurement

Working in collaboration with researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), JILA physicists are at the forefront of efforts to invent and refine precision measurement tools. These tools allow scientists to probe tiny structures inside living cells, study the properties of ultracold matter, monitor the dynamics of chemical reactions, directly measure the frequency of visible light, study the behavior of electrons in semiconductors, precisely transmit time and frequency information from atomic clocks, and investigate phenomena heretofore too small or too fast to "see," much less precisely quantify. Precision measurement research falls into five areas: biological force standards, measurements of fundamental parameters, precision optical frequency metrology, precision time transfer, and ultrasensitive and ultrastable devices. Within these areas, scientists are seeking answers to such questions as:


  • What is the most accurate and secure way to communicate time and frequency?
  • Have fundamental "constants" been constant since the early days of the Universe?
  • Does the electron have an electric dipole moment?
  • Can we refine precision measurement to not only examine the fundamental processes of nature but also, in some cases, to manipulate them?
  • How can we precisely detect gravitational waves emanating from black hole binaries?
  • Is it possible to measure nanomechanical motion with precision beyond the standard quantum limit?
  • Can biomolecules such as DNA be developed as force standards for the measurement of forces of a few trillionths of a Newton?
  • What are the quantum limits of optical frequency comb lasers?