UK Consortium to Develop Miniature Atomic Clock

Compound Semiconductor Centre Ltd (CSC), the joint venture between IQE plc and Cardiff University plans to participate in an Innovate UK quantum technology project to develop and commercialize a quantum miniature atomic clock to power future 5G networks.

For the project, CSC will serve as part of a consortium led by Teledyne e2v in the KAIROS project to develop a pre-production prototype of a miniature atomic clock. Other partners in the consortium are the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), Leonardo, Altran, ICS, HCD Research, Optocap, University of York and Cardiff University.

Precise Time Measurement Crucial to Numerous Services

The atomic clock is intended to provide precise timing to a range of critical infrastructure services such as reliable energy supply, safe transport links, mobile communications, data networks, and electronic financial transactions.

Notably, the precise measurement of time is crucial to the effective functioning of these services, which currently rely on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) for a timing signal. However, GNSS signals are easily disrupted either accidentally or maliciously.
Also, prolonged GNSS unavailability causes these critical services to stop functioning.

The reliance on GNSS for precision timing and the resulting vulnerability of these essential services prompted an InnovateUK to commission a report published by London Economics in June 2017. The report estimated the impact on the UK economy of a five-day GNSS outage at £5.2B.

Miniature Atomic Clock Sought Due to GNSS Vulnerability

The issue of GNSS vulnerability is becoming widely recognized and is generating a demand for timing solutions that are not dependent on GNSS. The next generation miniature atomic clock arising from this project fulfills this need. The project expects such a miniature atomic clock could find widespread adoption in precision timing for several civil and military applications, mobile base stations, network servers for financial services, data centers, national power distribution networks, and air traffic control systems.

Additional applications for portable atomic clocks arise for applications that require precise timing in an area without an available GNSS signal.