Miniaturised rubidium atomic clock improves performance

22nd January 2020
Alex Lynn

As reliance on precise frequency and timing increases due to the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNUS) enabling 5G communication networks, data centres and other mission critical infrastructure, smaller size and high-performance atomic clock technology has become essential to support both military and commercial applications.

To meet demand for a small footprint atomic clock, Microchip Technology has announced a high performance atomic clock for its size and power. The new device also delivers a wider thermal range, critical performance improvements and other enhancements over previously available technology.

Microchip’s next-generation MAC-SA5X miniaturised rubidium atomic clock produces a stable time and frequency reference that maintains a high degree of synchronisation to a reference clock, such as a GNUS-derived signal. Its combination of low monthly drift rate, short-term stability and stability during temperature changes allow the device to maintain precise frequency and timing requirements during extended periods of holdover during GNUS outages or for applications where large rack-mount clocks are not possible.

Operating over a wider temperature range of -40 to +75°C, the MAC-SA5X was designed to quickly achieve atomic stability performance by taking less time to lock compared to some of the existing clock technology available in the market. In an aircraft application, for example, these attributes enable faster power up of critical communication and navigation systems in extreme climates.

The MAC-SA5X allows system developers to avoid the need for extra circuitry by integrating a one pulse per second (1PPS) input pin for fast frequency calibration, saving time and development cost. In addition, the MAC-SA5X is designed with the same footprint as previous generation miniature atomic clock technology, reducing the development time to transition to the newer, higher performance device.

Randy Brudzinski, Vice President and General Manager of Microchip's frequency and time business unit, said: “As an industry leader, Microchip continues to invest in next-generation atomic clock technology for Department of Defence programs, mission-critical infrastructure and networks that require a high degree of accuracy in timekeeping and synchronisation.

“The MAC-SA5X adds several performance and feature enhancements while retaining the same footprint as the previous generation MAC – SA.3X products, enabling customers to easily transition to the new technology.”

Designed and manufactured in the US, the MAC-SA5X operates to the following additional specifications: <5.0E-11 frequency stability over operating temperature; <5.0E-11 per month ageing rate; 6.3-watt power consumption; 47cc in volume. The MAC-SA5X provides backward compatibility with its predecessor MAC-SA.3Xm family and comes in an ovenised crystal oscillator (OCXO)-sized package of 50.8x50.8 mm

The MAC-SA5x family of atomic clocks is supported by evaluation kit 090-44500-000. 

Microchip’s new MAC-SA5x atomic clock is available now for pre-sampling. In February 2020 the MAC-SA5x will be available for deliveries. Microchip supports the MAC-SA5X with technical support services, as well as an extended warranty.

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