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India Enhances Timekeeping Infrastructure with Deployment of Atomic Clocks


India is set to deploy its own atomic clocks nationwide to bolster its timekeeping infrastructure and bolster national defense capabilities for the future. The initiative aims to synchronize all digital devices with Indian Standard Time (IST), ensuring uniformity and accuracy across the nation. Spearheaded by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) under the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, the installation of atomic clocks marks a significant step towards modernizing India’s timekeeping systems and strengthening its technological capabilities.


GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Atomic Clocks?
  2. Reasons for India’s Development of Atomic Clocks

What are Atomic Clocks?

  • Atomic clocks are highly accurate timekeeping devices that rely on the resonance frequencies of atoms, commonly cesium or rubidium, to measure time.
  • Atomic clocks were invented in 1955 by Louise Essen.
  • These clocks are incredibly precise, losing approximately one second every 100 million years.
  • Atomic clocks are currently operational in Ahmedabad and Faridabad.
Types of Atomic Clocks:
  • Cesium Atomic Beam Clock:
    • Accuracy: Offers high accuracy and good long-term stability.
  • Hydrogen Maser Clock:
    • Stability: Provides the best stability for short periods, up to a few hours.
  • Rubidium Gas Cell Clock:
    • Functionality: Utilizes rubidium atoms for timekeeping, offering a balance between accuracy and stability.
Working Principle of Atomic Clocks:

Electromagnetic Radiation Control:

  • Regulation: The electronic components of atomic clocks are controlled by microwave electromagnetic radiation (EM), maintaining precise frequency levels crucial for inducing quantum transitions in atoms.

Quantum Transitions:

  • Frequency Dependence: Quantum transitions (energy changes) in cesium or rubidium atoms occur only at specific radiation frequencies.

Time Measurement:

  • Feedback Loop: Atomic clocks observe and maintain these quantum transitions in a feedback loop.
  • Second Calculation: The waves generated during these quantum transitions are counted to determine the value of one second.
Reasons for India’s Development of Atomic Clocks


  • Context: The development of atomic clocks in India was initiated in response to the denial of Global Positioning System (GPS) information during the Kargil War.
  • Importance of Independent Timekeeping:
    • Defense and Security: Independent timekeeping capabilities are essential for defense operations, cybersecurity, and secure online transactions.
Enhanced Security Measures:

Optical Cable Connectivity:

  • Objective: Connecting atomic clocks via optical cables aims to enhance security by providing an alternative time dissemination method, reducing vulnerability to disruptions during emergencies or wartime.

Reduced Foreign Dependency:

  • Strategic Independence: Developing indigenous atomic clocks reduces India’s reliance on foreign atomic clocks, particularly for critical infrastructure like the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), also known as NavIC.
  • Complete Control: Owning and operating its atomic clocks enables India to maintain full control over its navigation systems, ensuring national security and technological independence.

-Source: Live Mint

May 2024