PhD Position – Portable Atomic Clocks

University of Sussex - Department of Physics & Astronomy

We offer a 3.5 year PhD position in the Ion Trap Cavity-QED and Molecular Physics Group in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Sussex. The project is within the Quantum Technology Hub for Sensors and Metrology and in collaboration with the National Physical Laboratory.

The currently most precise atomic clocks are based on optical transitions within neutral atoms or trapped atomic ions. With frequency uncertainties on the order of 1 second in 30 billion years, these systems supersede current atomic clocks based on microwave transitions. Despite their superior performance, these optical clocks are still constrained to the research labs due to their high power consumption and the volume of the required infrastructure. The aim of the project is to develop and implement technologies to build a portable atomic clock based on trapped calcium ions. Utilising the advances in optical fibre technology and laser development, an all-fibre system will be set up and tested. Integrating optical fibres into the ion trap structure for fluorescence collection and light delivery as well as an all-fibre laser system ensures the stability and compact size of the optical clock. The project includes developing a compact laser system for generating, cooling, and interrogating the ions, integrating all optical components in to the ion trapping structure, building the required electronic control system as well as designing of the vacuum system. The heart of the clock is an ultra-stable laser (clock laser) which will be developed in collaboration with the National Physical Laboratory. After successful testing the portable clock system, the project aims to explore the possibility to eliminate systematic frequency shifts due to electric and magnetic fields through quantum superpositions. Finally, the clocks performance will be evaluated by comparing its stability with primary and secondary frequency standards at the NPL. The project provides hands-on training from the construction of state-of-the-art ion trap quantum computing systems through to the implementation of quantum state transfers and entanglement generation.

Award Amount

The studentship includes a tax-free bursary (£14,553 per annum in 2017/18) and home/EU fees for 3.5 years, as well as funding for research training and travel.


Applicants should hold, or expect to hold, a UK undergraduate degree in physics or a related subject. Due to funding restrictions, the studentship is open to UK and EU resident students only.


Online applications at: State in the Funding section of the application form that you are applying for the "PhD Studentships in Experimental Atomic Physics."


Application deadline: 1st March 2018

Early application is advised. The studentship will be allocated as soon as a suitable candidate is found.

Start date at Sussex: September 2018

Further information

This is a full-time studentship. With agreement of the supervisor, the student may take on a limited amount of teaching, for which additional payment will be made.

The award includes an additional training grant of £1650 p.a. for short courses, books, travel, conferences etc.

Contact details

If you are interesting in being part of one of the forward thinking research groups, please get in touch with Prof Matthias Keller.

For practical questions about the application process and/or eligibility for funding, please contact:

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