Dublin firm’s atomic clock breakthrough secures ESA deal

11 Sep 2009

Dublin technology company Eblana Photonics has won a significant European Space Agency contract to develop lasers for use in the most precise atomic clocks ever created.

Atomic clocks are the world’s most accurate clocks and are used in the existing European Galileo satellite system design used for global positioning. These satellite-borne clocks must be highly accurate and stable since a deviation of even one nanosecond produces a positional error on the ground of 30cm.

The founder of Eblana Photonics, Dr James O’Gorman, explained that the company’s products are based on a patented high-performance laser diode technology platform that is not just limited to use in atomic clocks.

“This is an opportunity for Eblana Photonics’ high performance lasers to help improve the accuracy of global positioning systems and satellite navigation, as well as have an impact on the accuracy of terrestrial applications such as high-speed optical communications, medical sensing and toxic gas detection,” he said.

Eblana Photonics secured the major ESA contract with assistance from Enterprise Ireland, which manages Ireland’s membership of the European Space Agency and helps Irish companies and researchers to participate in its programmes and bids for ESA contracts.

“This is an excellent example of how small high-tech Irish companies are developing highly innovative technologies for highly demanding international clients like the European Space Agency,” the Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, Conor Lenihan TD, explained.

“Eblana Photonics is producing some exciting technologies that have many practical applications – in space, and on Earth, and are to be congratulated on winning this ESA contract,” Lenihan added.

“On passing our very demanding selection criteria for space we see a very promising future for an implementation of Eblana’s technology into many applications and payloads. An expansion of the range of lasers to cover applications in the visible, UV and infrared shall open even more possibilities,” the ESA said in a statement.

Photo: The EU’s Galileo satellite navigation system uses atomic clocks.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years