University of East Anglia Featured PhD Programmes
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A miniature atomic clock using endohedral fullerene molecules

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Atomic clocks are the most precise scientific instruments ever made, and are key to advanced technologies for navigation, communication, and radar. The most accurate atomic clocks cost millions of pounds and take up entire rooms, but an important goal for this research field is to develop miniature, portable clocks. This is a major challenge for quantum science and technology.

This PhD project, based at Lancaster University and in collaboration with technology company Forsberg Services, will pursue a new approach to create a clock that will fit on a chip. Present-day atomic clocks are based on atomic vapours confined in a vacuum chamber. Our new approach is to use electron and nuclear spins in endohedral fullerene molecules – nature’s atom traps – whose energy levels offer an exquisitely stable frequency reference. To make this novel approach work, we must overcome a range of physics and engineering challenges, including detecting spin resonance from a small number of spins, identifying the energy levels involved, and miniaturizing the control electronics and magnet. The reward will be a completely new technology with a wide range of civilian and military uses. We are looking for a candidate who has a strong interest in applying quantum physics in new technology and is motivated to develop the new and demanding electronic measurement techniques that will be necessary.

The Physics Department is holder of Athena SWAN Silver award and JUNO Championship status and is strongly committed to fostering diversity within its community as a source of excellence, cultural enrichment, and social strength. We welcome those who would contribute to the further diversification of our department.

Please contact Dr Edward Laird () for any additional enquiries. You can also apply directly at stating the title of the project and the name of the supervisor.

Closing Date
Applications will be accepted until the post is filled

Funding Notes

Funding for this project is available to citizens of the UK/EU. This project is fully funded for home/EU students via a grant from the Department for Transport.


• “Keeping Perfect Time with Caged Atoms”, K. Porfyrakis and E.A. Laird, IEEE Spectrum (Dec 2017, p34)
• “The spin resonance clock transition of the endohedral fullerene [email protected]”, R.T. Harding et al. Phys Rev Lett. 119 140801 (2017)

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