The time according to atoms
The construction and marketing of high-performance hydrogen maser atomic clocks remains the privilege of the Americans and the Russians. The Swiss also market this type of clock, but with a Russian heart. Europe would like to become completely autonomous in this sector, in particular to meet the needs of its Galileo navigation system. Professor Thierry Bastin’s atomic physics unit took up the challenge with the Liège-based company Gillam-FEi within the framework of the Walloon “Marshall Plan”. The first prototype has just been completed. The aim of the next step is to divide the weight of these devices by ten so that they can be put on board the satellites at a low cost. This would be a world first for this type of maser.