Welcome to the Time and Frequency Laboratory


The Time and Frequency Laboratory constitutes one of the nine key areas of research and innovation of the University of Neuchâtel. The Time-Frequency and Optical Metrology Centre explores and pushes the frontiers in time measurements, photonics, and metrology.

Mission statement

The LTF’s mission is to explore and push the frontiers in time and frequency research, optical metrology, and ultrafast science and technology.

LTF also contributes Switzerland to join in a near future the limited number of countries that actively participate to the definition of the international atomic time TAI with primary frequency standards, with the development of the unique atomic fountain clock FOCS-2 that operates with a continuous beam of cold cesium atoms.

Key competences

LTF’s key competences to achieve its research objectives are:

  • Ultrafast lasers development and analysis
  • Various frequency combs systems
  • State-of-the-art ion beam sputtering (IBS) machine for custom optics fabrication
  • Cold atoms
  • Noise/stability analysis for microwave/optical oscillators
  • Stabilisation of microwave/optical oscillators
  • Vapour cells manufacturing and characterisation
  • CPT and double resonance spectroscopy in alkali vapour cells
  • Vapour cells atomic clocks
  • Time & Frequency metrology
  • State-of-the-art reference H-maser


Laboratoire Temps-Fréquence (LTF-Time and Frequency Laboratory) was founded on February 1st 2007 in the Institute of Microtechnology (IMT) at the University of Neuchâtel (UniNE) as a result of the transfer of the academic and applied research activities of the former Observatoire Cantonal de Neuchâtel (Observatory of Neuchatel), which had a longstanding expertize in accurate time and frequency measurements. The Laboratory was transferred to the Institute of Physics one year later.

Created in 1858, the Observatory has played a major role during the 20th century in assessing and rating the accuracy of mechanical timepiece movements for the Swiss watch industry based on astronomical observations. Until the late 1960s and the advent of the quartz watch movement, the Observatory issued a certification to the mechanical movements that passed a stringent series of tests.

After the introduction of the atomic coordinate time standard in 1967, the Observatory played a major and recognized role in the development of atomic clocks. Indeed, all atomic clocks that will equip the future European global navigation satellite system Galileo have been developed at the Observatory of Neuchatel.

The Time and Frequency Laboratory is continuing the pioneering activity initiated by its predecessor in the domain of atomic clocks and precision time and frequency metrology, in particular by studying improved compact atomic clocks for the second generation of the Galileo system, by developing a unique continuous cold caesium atom primary frequency standard as well as novel optical frequency comb technologies.

Last update: January 17, 2017


Neuzeit - Im Takt der Atomuhr

Broadcast by German radio Deutschlandfunk


Prendre toute la mesure du temps

Article series on time and frequency in the journal enDirect.


3D-printing for atomic clocks

Press release of October 18, 2016. 


Le Laboratoire Temps-Frequence fait des experiences

TV clip by RTS1 in Couleurs d'été.

Veuillez installer le plugin Flash