The IND55 Mclocks project is funded by the European Commission under the European Metrology Research Programme (EMRP). The project has been in answer to the EMRP Call 2012 in the topic area Metrology for Industry.
A wide range of industrial fields require stable and reliable frequency and/or timing signals than can be provided only by atomic frequency standards. These industrial applications include telecommunication, navigation, defense and space applications (such as GALILEO).
Optical clocks are the most accurate and stable clocks available nowadays, however, their performance is well beyond what is required for most industrial applications. Optical clocks are still at the level of laboratory prototypes in terms of reliability, size, cost and power consumption. As most of the industrial applications are still related to microwave frequencies, one can easily argue that microwave rather than optical clocks are more applicable for current practical purposes. In the microwave domain, H-masers offer the best capabilities in terms of medium-long term stability but, again, they are bulky, very expensive and only a few laboratories can afford them.
A valid alternative is represented by vapour cell clocks that have been studied and developed in several National Metrological Institutes (NMIs) and research laboratories. In the past several studies have been conducted on laser-pumped vapour cell clocks with the aim of improving the frequency stability compared to traditional lamp-pumped commercial devices. In fact, such a clock combines typical feature of vapour-cell devices, such as compactness, reliability, low cost and power consumption, with the high frequency stability of an H-maser. JRP IND55 intends to develop different kind of vapor-cell clocks targeting different applications.