Scientists have developed laser clocks that can keep time without missing a beat in nearly two billion years. They are so precise that they could lead eventually lead to automated cars.
Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) based in Boulder, Colorado have developed an advanced clock which measures the vibrations of electrons in mercury ions and go 1.7 billion years without missing a beat.
The new clocks are known as optical clocks and use lasers to measure the frequency with which electrons in atoms vibrate. Currently the most accurate clocks are known as atomic clocks which can measure to an accuracy of one second over 80 million years. As a comparison a normal wristwatch will lose around 15 seconds a month.
The international committee for weights and measures is planning to replace its atomic clocks with optical ones by 2020.
Scientists believe that installing optical clocks on satellites they will be able to track objects within less than a metre leading to automated motorway driving or landing an aircraft without human intervention.
The European Space Agency has said that they are considering fitting an optical clock to a satellite as part of its cosmic vision programme. This programme will run from 2015 to 2025 exploring ways of using space for scientific advancement.
Scientists in Britain, US, Germany, France and Japan are now competing to make a clock more powerful time so accurately that it will not have lost a second since the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. They believe this clock will be built within a decade.