Atomic clocks constitute a fundamental tool for time and frequency metrology and their application is widespread in many technological fields. In particular, the International System of units (SI) defines the second on a microwave transition of Caesium atoms. The realization is made by clocks reaching uncertainties of few parts in 10^−16, making the second to be the quantity realized with the smallest uncertainty in the SI. However, a new generation of atomic clocks, called optical clocks, have already demonstrated to surpass Caesium standards both in accuracy and stability. The research performed during my PhD activity has been focused on the development and characterization of Ytterbium (Yb) optical lattice clocks. These systems operate with a large number of ultra-cold neutral atoms having a clock transition in the visible region of the electromagnetic spectrum. The atomic sample is trapped in an periodical optical potential called optical lattice that gives the advantage to interrogate many quantum absorbers for an extended time, with small perturbations, allowing to achieve an unprecedented stability and accuracy. The main experimental work has been carried out in the laboratories of the Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca Metrologica (INRIM) in Turin, where several atomic clocks are present including the Italian primary frequency standard, the Caesium fountain ITCsF2, and where an Yb optical lattice clock is currently being developed. This thesis describes the functioning of the system along with the full characterization of systematic effects, the complete uncertainty budget and its first absolute frequency measurement against the primary frequency standard. The clock exhibited an accuracy of 1.6 × 10^−16 and the comparison with the Cs fountain resulted in a frequency of f171Yb = 518 295 836 590 863.59(31) Hz, limited by the fountain uncertainty. This measurement is in agreement with the ytterbium frequency recommended as a secondary representation of the second in the SI and constitutes the first measurement of a Yb clock in Europe and the second one in the world against a primary frequency standard. Several upgrades have been applied after the absolute measurement. In particular, the design and realization a system capable to frequency stabilize several lasers on a single optical cavity is illustrated. This cavity has been implemented to lock the lasers used to cool and trap the atomic sample at 399, 556 and 759nm using the offset sideband locking technique, a modified version of the Pound–Drever–Hall method that gives an extended frequency tunability. The system proved to be an easy-to-use and reliable tool for the experimental activity showing a linewidth below 300 Hz at 556nm, which is the wavelength that requires the most stringent performance, and a long term drift below 20 kHz per day at 759nm. That is suitable for operating the lattice laser with a light shift uncertainty below 1 × 10−18. During my PhD I have been guest researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) of Boulder, Colorado, for nine months in 2016. In these laboratories two Yb optical lattice clocks are operative. I worked on the instability measurement of a composite system exploiting the two clocks to suppress the Dick effect, called zero-dead-time (ZDT) clock, which demonstrated a fractional instability of 3 × 10−17 at 1s. The two clocks can also be operated to extend the interrogation time obtaining a spectroscopic feature after 4 s of 120(20)mHz corresponding to a quality factor Q > 4 × 10^15. I also worked on the characterization of several systematic shifts that allowed to complete the uncertainty budget of the clocks at 1.6 × 10^−18. In particular, I contributed to the characterization of lattice light shifts considering the effect of atomic sample temperature and the identification of a metrological regime called operational magic frequency where frequency shifts are insensitive to changes in trap depth.
Realization of advanced 171Yb optical lattice frequency standard / Milani, Gianmaria. - (2018 May 02).