New Distinguished Lecturer : Ekkehard Peik

May 2, 2018 | Contributed By - Bernie Tittmann, Vice Chair of Awards and Debra Coler, UFFC-S Secretary
Adcom has approved the Award Committee’s motion naming as the next Frequency Control Distinguished Lecturer. He has been chair of the Executive Committee of the European Frequency and Time Forum EFTF since 2012 and is German delegate to the Consultative Committee for Time and Frequency (CCTF) at BIPM. From June 1 2018 to December 31 2019, he will be available to speak about “Optical atomic clocks with single trapped ions.”

Please feel free to contact to schedule a lecture.


Optical atomic clocks with single trapped ions

The precision of atomic clocks improves at a rapid pace: While cesium clocks reach relative uncertainties of a few 10-16, several optical clocks based on different atoms and ions are now reported with systematic uncertainties in the low 10-18 range.  The Yb+ optical clock at PTB has reached this uncertainty, using a single trapped ion, laser cooling and the observation of quantum jumps as a spectroscopic signal on an extremely narrow electric octupole transition.  In the lecture I will discuss the principles and experimental methods that have enabled these performances. Comparisons between highly precise clocks that rely on different reference transitions allow for improved tests of fundamental physics, like quantitative tests of relativity and searches for violations of the equivalence principle.  A future nuclear clock based on the low-energy transition in Th-229 that is investigated in our group may further increase the sensitivity of such tests and promises to open new connections between atomic and nuclear physics.


Ekkehard Peik studied physics at the universities of Göttingen and Munich, obtaining the diploma (1988) and the PhD degree (1993) from Ludwig-Maximilians Universität (LMU) Munich for experimental work with laser-cooled trapped ions and the first experiments on an In+ optical frequency standard. From 1994-1996 he was a postdoctoral Marie-Curie-Fellow at the Laboratoire Kastler-Brossel of Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, working on laser cooling and quantum effects in cold atoms. Returning to Munich to LMU and the Max-Planck-Institute for Quantum Optics, his work towards a habilitation in experimental physics from 1996-2001 included the advancement of the In+ project, the development of novel traps and the first optical frequency measurement of a trapped ion with a femtosecond frequency comb. In 2001 he joined PTB as a staff scientist and became head of the newly established working group “Optical clocks with trapped ions” in 2003 and of the Time and Frequency Department in 2007. Some of the research achievements with his group at PTB are: The concept of an optical nuclear clock with 229Th, developed together with Chr. Tamm (2003). This topic is now investigated in more than 10 groups worldwide. The optical clocks with 171Yb+ were the first to be compared on a sub-Hz level (2005) and provided some of the most stringent tests for temporal variations of fundamental constants (2004, 2014) and recently for violations of Lorentz invariance with atomic clocks. The operational 171Yb+ optical clock that is based on the electric octupole transition is now evaluated at a systematic uncertainty of 3×10-18 (2016), the lowest world-wide for a single-ion clock. The recent optical detection of the 229Th low-energy isomer and the first measurement of its nuclear moments (2017) constitute steps towards the 229Th nuclear clock.

Ekkehard Peik has been chair of the Executive Committee of the European Frequency and Time Forum EFTF since 2012, and is German delegate to the Consultative Committee for Time and Frequency (CCTF) at BIPM.


Marie-Curie-Fellowship (at Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, 1994-1996)

Young Scientist Award 2003 of the European Frequency and Time Forum

Member of the Foundational Questions Institute FQXi (since 2006)

European Frequency and Time Award 2018

Contributions to activities of AdCom and UFFC:
  • JTPC co-chair (together with K. Gibble) in 2009 for EFTF-IFCS in Besançon, France
  • EFTF representative for the 2013 joint UFFC, EFTF and PFM Symposium in Prague, Czech Republic
  • General co-chair (together with G. Weaver) in 2015 for IFCS-EFTF in Denver, USA


Last updated On: May 9, 2018