New method developed for synchronizing clocks

Jul 20, 2010

Maintaining the correct time is no longer just a matter of keeping your watch wound -- especially when it comes to computers, telecommunications, and other complex systems. The clocks in these devices must stay accurate to within nanoseconds because their oscillators -- objects, like quartz crystals, which repeat the same motion over and over again -- are synchronized to agree with the clocks on board Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites.

In the journal Review of Scientific Instruments, which is published by the American Institute of Physics, researchers report on a new way to accurately synchronize clocks. The new method uses both GPS and the Internet to set clocks within 10 nanoseconds of a reference clock located anywhere on Earth.

The method makes use of a common-view disciplined oscillator (CVDO) -- a device "whose frequency and time are tightly controlled to agree with a reference clock at another location, if both clocks are connected to the Internet and if both clocks are being compared to GPS satellites," says Michael Lombardi, a metrology engineer with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and coauthor of the paper along with Aaron Dahlen of the United States Coast Guard.

The significance of the CVDO, says Lombardi, "is simply that you don't have to depend on GPS time." While there is no shortage of GPS disciplined oscillators -- "the in North America probably owns several hundred thousand of them," Lombardi says -- "a CVDO potentially provides more versatility. It would allow a telecommunications network to synchronize all of its clocks to a different reference than GPS, such as the NIST standard" -- the that keeps the official time for the United States. "If GPS time is wrong, the CVDO will still be correct as long as its reference clock is right."

Explore further: The electric slide dance of DNA knots

More information: The article, "A common-view disciplined oscillator" by Michael A. Lombardi and Aaron P. Dahlen was published online in the journal Review of Scientific Instruments on May 2, 2010. See: rsi.aip.org/rsinak/v81/i5/p055110_s1

Provided by American Institute of Physics

4.4 /5 (7 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Time is money: SIM time network has far-reaching benefits

May 28, 2010

Clocks in the Americas and the Caribbean Islands are now ticking in unison thanks to the work of the Sistema Interamericano de Metrologia (SIM), a regional metrology organization that works to promote accurate ...

Atomic clock signals may be best shared by fiber-optics

Mar 02, 2007

Time and frequency information can be transferred between laboratories or to other users in several ways, often using the Global Positioning System (GPS). But today's best atomic clocks are so accurate—neither gaining nor ...

Chip-scale atomic clock

Aug 28, 2004

The heart of a minuscule atomic clock---believed to be 100 times smaller than any other atomic clock---has been demonstrated by scientists at the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technolog ...

Recommended for you

Chemist develops X-ray vision for quality assurance

19 minutes ago

It is seldom sufficient to read the declaration of contents if you need to know precisely what substances a product contains. In fact, to do this you need to be a highly skilled chemist or to have genuine ...

The future of ultrashort laser pulses

28 minutes ago

Rapid advances in techniques for the creation of ultra-short laser pulses promise to boost our knowledge of electron motions to an unprecedented level.

IHEP in China has ambitions for Higgs factory

17 hours ago

Who will lay claim to having the world's largest particle smasher?. Could China become the collider capital of the world? Questions tease answers, following a news story in Nature on Tuesday. Proposals for ...

The physics of lead guitar playing

19 hours ago

String bends, tapping, vibrato and whammy bars are all techniques that add to the distinctiveness of a lead guitarist's sound, whether it's Clapton, Hendrix, or BB King.

The birth of topological spintronics

20 hours ago

The discovery of a new material combination that could lead to a more efficient approach to computer memory and logic will be described in the journal Nature on July 24, 2014. The research, led by Penn S ...

User comments : 0