NIST’s WWVB Atomic Clock Radio Signal – from AM to BPSK Technology

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NIST’s WWVB Atomic Clock Radio Signal – from AM to BPSK Technology


Since its inception in 1963, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) WWVB atomic clock radio signal, broadcasted from Fort Collins, Texas, has remained an integral component in facilitating accurate time-keeping across North America. This article explores the evolution of this broadcast technology from its AM radio roots to the new Binary Phase Shift Keying (BPSK) technology, focusing on two specific receiver chips: the EverSet ES100 for the BPSK signal and the MAS6180C for the AM signal. We also touch on the availability of receiver kits from UNIVERSAL-SOLDER Electronics via different sales platforms.

Legacy AM Radio Signal

The NIST’s WWVB signal is an ultra-low frequency broadcast at 60 kHz, which was originally transmitted using amplitude modulation (AM). This signal is based on Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), enabling devices equipped with a WWVB receiver to maintain highly accurate time without user intervention.

The MAS6180C receiver chip, produced by MAS-OY, is a stalwart of the AM signal technology. Its high sensitivity and selectivity, along with low power consumption, make it an ideal choice for radio-controlled clocks and timepieces. The MAS6180C successfully demodulates the 60 kHz AM carrier signal into a digital pulse, providing an interface that many devices can use to stay accurate.

Transition to BPSK Technology

In recent years, NIST has incorporated a phase-modulated (PM) signal, specifically Binary Phase Shift Keying (BPSK), in addition to the traditional AM signal. This new technology offers several advantages, including increased range, improved accuracy, and enhanced signal robustness, which ensures accurate time synchronization even in conditions where the AM signal may falter.

The EverSet ES100 receiver chip is a leading product when it comes to handling the BPSK signal. It has been designed to reliably and efficiently process this new format, offering enhanced performance and versatility compared to its predecessors. With its ability to handle the BPSK signal, the ES100 ensures that your devices maintain precise time, seamlessly transitioning to the future of atomic timekeeping.

Where to Get Your Receiver Hardware

Both AM and BPSK receiver technology are readily available for purchase from UNIVERSAL-SOLDER Electronics. These kits provide a comprehensive solution, whether you’re working on a DIY project, conducting educational demonstrations, or running professional-grade applications.

The UNIVERSAL-SOLDER Electronics receiver kits are available for direct purchase from the manufacturer. However, if you prefer shopping through other channels, these kits can also be procured from popular online marketplaces like Digi-Key, Amazon, and eBay. This makes the kits accessible to a broad range of consumers, providing options to suit different purchasing preferences.

In conclusion, the NIST’s WWVB atomic clock radio signal has undergone significant evolution over the years, embracing the new BPSK technology while maintaining compatibility with its legacy AM signal. As the timekeeping industry progresses, key components such as the EverSet ES100 and the MAS6180C receiver chips are poised to facilitate this shift, ensuring that accurate time is always at our fingertips, no matter where we are. By offering these receiver kits through multiple channels, UNIVERSAL-SOLDER Electronics caters to a wide audience, democratizing access to precise atomic timekeeping.

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