Researchers at Dublin City University (DCU) have successfully tested laser components contained within the next generation of atomic clocks for space navigation.

The research is a collaboration with commercial partners in Ireland and Switzerland on ground breaking atomic clock technology for use in satellites and the International Space Station, in a project funded by the European Space Agency.

Working with Eblana Photonics and Enlightra, the DCU team demonstrated for the first time a new calibre of laser which will allow more efficient and compact implementation of atomic clocks for future satellite missions.

Atomic clocks keep incredibly accurate time by measuring the frequency of atoms.

Space navigation systems are reliant on this hyper-accurate timekeeping with an error of just a nanosecond potentially leading to distance and positional problems.

The new calibre laser, demonstrated successfully for the first time at DCU, will operate in an optical atomic clock using strontium atoms.

The laser is smaller and requires less power than previous iterations, which is vital for use on board satellites.

"The development of optical and photonic technologies will be key to tackle many global challenges in the areas of communication, transport, health, climate, etc," said Prof Liam Barry, Director of the Radio & Optical Communications Laboratory in the School of Electronic Engineering, DCU.

"This project specifically allowed us to develop new laser characterisation facilities which enables us to train future scientists and engineer to better understand these important photonic technologies," Prof Barry said.