Atomic & Optical Physics

In a single Terawatt laser pulse generated in Walker Lab, the peak power can exceed the world average power consumption.
Ultrashort (fsec or asec) laser pulses can further acquire intricate temporal shapes (credit: T. Brixner).

The goals of Atomic, Optical, and Molecular (AMO) Physics are to understand atoms and light at their deepest level and to develop new techniques for measuring and manipulating light and matter. Frontiers of AMO research explore topics such as:

  • the basic symmetries of nature
  • the properties of space and time
  • unexplored aspects of quantum mechanics
  • the interaction of matter and light under extreme conditions
  • the structure and interactions of atoms and molecules
  • new forms of matter such as coherent atoms and ultracold atomic gases
  • the deep connections between physics and information including AMO hardware for quantum computers.

The prefix ultra and the adjective extreme appear frequently, for these frontiers really are astonishing. Ultracold temperatures are a billion times colder than interstellar space. Ultraintense light is strong enough to rip apart atoms and even space itself. Ultrashort light pulses are so fast that they can “stop” atoms as they move within a molecule. Ultraprecise atomic clocks are so accurate that they vary by less than a second in a hundred million years.

Research Areas:

See also the Website of Molecular Physics.