Kibble, Bryan P. Formerly, Division of Electrical Science, National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, Middlesex, United Kingdom.
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A device that facilitates and greatly simplifies the measurement of very high frequencies, particularly in the optical range from 1014 to 1015 Hz. Extremely stable and reproducible optical frequencies fopt in this range are produced by trapped-atom and trapped-ion atomic clocks. Frequency-comb technology is based on the train of short-duration pulses of optical radiation emitted at a stable and measurable repetition rate fR of 100 MHz to 1 GHz by a femtosecond laser. Such a pulse train can be equivalently represented as a continuously produced “comb” of frequencies. The “teeth” of the comb are discrete phase-related frequencies spaced by fR from one another, and the frequency of the mth tooth is mfR, where m is an integer (see illustration). The frequencies produced typically span a rather narrow wavelength range of 30 nm to around 800 nm, but this span can be increased to a factor of 2 by passing the pulsed light through an optical fiber made from a highly nonlinear material, enabling a comb frequency to be matched to many different optical frequency standards. See also: Atomic clock
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