Progress Toward a Compact, Highly Stable Ion Clock
- Monday, 05 October 2009
There was an update on the subject of two previous NASA Tech Briefs articles: “Compact, Highly Stable Ion Clock” (NPO-43075), Vol. 32, No. 5 (May 2008), page 63; and “Neon as a Buffer Gas for a Mercury-Ion Clock” (NPO-42919), Vol. 32, No. 7 (July 2008), page 62. To recapitulate: A developmental miniature mercury-ion clock has stability comparable to that of a hydrogen-maser clock. The ion-handling components are housed in a sealed vacuum tube, wherein a getter pump maintains the partial vacuum, and the evacuated tube is backfilled with mercury vapor in a neon buffer gas.
There was progress in the development of the clock, with emphasis on the design, fabrication, pump-down, and bake-out of the vacuum tube (based on established practice in the traveling-wave-tube-amplifier industry) and the ability of the tube to retain a vacuum after a year of operation. Other developments include some aspects of the operation of mercury-vapor source (a small appendage oven containing HgO) so as to maintain the optimum low concentration of mercury vapor, and further efforts to miniaturize the vacuum and optical subsystems to fit within a volume of 2 L.