Photonic integration for atomic clocks, magnetometers and frequency standards


Professor Charlie Ironside, School of Engineering, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8LT, UK . email

August 2012


Chip-scale atomic clocks are now a commercial product and are finding application in global positioning systems (GPS).  The premise of the work carried out in this group is that the atomic clocks and other closely related systems could benefit enormously from further photonic integration to make them even more compact, power efficient and robust systems for a range of applications that include clocks, magnetometers and optical communication frequency standards.

Atomic Magnetometers

A key advantage of atomic magnetometers is that they can operate at room temperature. If the magnetometers can be made sensitive enough they could replace the cryogenic Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices (SQUIDs) currently employed in medical imaging applications such as Magnetocardiography(MCG) and Magnetoencephalography (MEG).

For our work on magnetometers we are proposing to use the coherent population trapping effect in atomic vapours such as Rb and Cs atomic vapour loaded into hollow core optical fibres. 

For recent work on a monolithically mode locked semiconductor laser designed for coherent population trapping in Rb see :-

Frequency Standards

Acetylene gas (C2H4) provides a large number of reference optical absorption lines at wavelengths conveniently coincident with the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) C band (15301560 nm). Doppler free measurements of the C2H4 optical absorption lines are used as highly accurate frequency standards for optical communication systems that use wavelength division multiplexing (WDM). The aim of our project is to provide integrated photonic components for acetylene gas calibration systems that use hollow core optical fibre to contain the acetylene gas. These integrated photonic components will be used in highly compact , robust and reliable instruments that will provide calibration of WDM optical communication sytems.


  1. "Non-Cryogenic integrated optical magnetometers for Magnetocardiography (MCG) and Magnetoencephalography (MEG)", C. N. Ironside, B Porr,  J. Gross (PSYCHOLOGY) and A. Luiten (Physics Department, the University of Western Australia) 1/9/2009 - 31/8/2012 (3 yrs) funder  Wellcome Trust at 354,019GBP.
  2. "Frequency standards based on hollow core fibres and micro-fabricated opto-electronic components", C. N. Ironside 1/5/11 30/4/2014


3."Technical Assessment of Resonant tunnelling diode Laser Diode (RTD-LD)" European Space Agency Quotation:ESA REF RES-PIM/PA/bvk/229. 1/6/11 -29/2/12 ; 50,000Euro,  C. N. Ironside and E. Riis


1.  "Ultra-Sensitive Magnetometry using atoms in fibres", D. Stuart, C. N. Ironside, C. Perrella, A.N. Luiten, 22nd International Conference on Atomic Physics, Cairns, Australia, 25-30 July 2010.

2.     "Passively mode-locked semiconductor laser for coherent population trapping in 87Rb" , G. Tandoi, K. Seunarine, C. N. Ironside, A. C. Bryce, S. D. McDougal, W. Meredith and A. N. Luiten, CLEO/Europe-EQEC, Munich, paper CB.P.1 , 2011.

3."Review of optoelectronic oscillators based on modelocked lasers and resonant tunneling diode optoelectronics", C. N. Ironside, Mohsin Haji, Lianping Hou, Jehan Akbar, Anthony E. Kelly, K. Seunarine, Bruno Romeira, Jose M. L. Figueiredo. (Invited Paper) Applications of Optics and Photonics (AOP), Braga, 2011.

4.     "Prospects for atomic magnetometers employing hollow core optical fibre", C. N. Ironside, K. Seunarine, G. Tandoi, and A. N. Luiten, Invited Talk at the International Workshop Photonics & Micro and Nano-structured Materials (PMNM), Yerevan, Armenia,  28-30 June 2011.

Academic Partners

Professor Andre Luiten of the University of Western Australia UWA , Professor Erling Riis of the University of Strathclyde .

Industrial Partners

Compound Semiconductor Technologies Global Ltd. CST , NIST and National Physical Laboratory NPL. National Semiconductor.


Charlie Ironside, Giuseppe Tandoi


For easy access intellectual property associated with this project see:-