Oscillator Instability Measurement Platform
Founder members : FEMTO-ST, UTINAM, Observatoire de Besançon (OSU-THETA).
Time, and equivalently frequency, is the most precisely measured physical quantity. Nonetheless, the demand for higher precision keeps growing, from fundamental science to everyday applications.
As a matter of fact, precision and accuracy depend on the amount of time measured, exactly as a molecule, an airplane or a planet cannot be “weighted” as precisely as a one-kilogram mass.
Scanning the technology, we notice that virtually all devices and systems rely on an oscillator stable for a suitably short measurement time τ. By contrast, the accuracy at long τ is provided by an external reference, and ultimately on primary atomic clocks. This pattern is found in radars, telecom, computer boards, particle accelerators, geodesy, space missions, GPS and navigation, photonic systems, internet timing, to mention a few. In these domains, frequency fluctuations and noise are more relevant than accuracy. The scope of “short τ” spans from µs to days, depending on the application.
Surprisingly, National Laboratories focus on absolute accuracy and on atomic clocks, and pay comparatively little attention to the world of “short τ” – oscillators, fluctuations and noise.
Even more surprisingly, one would recall the fact that the Galileo-Huygens pendulum enabled the precise measurement of short intervals (1 sec. to 1 day) and opened the way to zillions of applications. By contrast, a small group of astronomers succeeded in adjusting the pendulums to the rotation of the Earth around the Sun.The Oscillator-IMP project aims to be the world-leader facility dedicated to the measurement of noise and short-term stability of oscillators and related devices, including microwave photonics, widely available to Agencies, to research institutions and to private companies, in the spirit of global competition and economy.
This ambitious project benefits from the high profile of our Time and Frequency Department. Through the LNE-LTFB, we are already affiliated to the LNE (Laboratoire National de Métrologie et d’essais) and we already have the highest-level COFRAC accreditation for phase noise and frequency fluctuations. Still through the LNELTFB, we are one of the 8 laboratories listed by the BIPM (Bureau International des Poids et Mesures) for the measurement of frequency fluctuations. And the one and only laboratory listed by the BIPM for phase noise measurements
Oscillator IMP key figures
- 100% Besancon (5/6 FEMTO-ST, 1/6 Utinam)
- ANR 4.2 M€, Franche-Comté Region : 1.5 M€ in 2012-2013.
- 5 WPs: Microwave photonics, Microwaves and RF, General metrology, Time scale, Digital electronics.