JILA makes major contributions to three vibrant research areas in the field of atomic and molecular physics: ultracold atoms, dense atomic vapors, and ultracold molecules. Ultracold atoms and synthetic potassium-rubidium (KRb) molecules comprise novel forms of matter that exist at temperatures below a few millionths of a degree above absolute zero (-459.67 °F). Many of JILA's atomic and molecular physicists investigate the properties, behavior, and interactions of cold (~1 K) and ultracold matter. In the process, they learn first hand about a strange and hidden world where the laws of quantum mechanics predominate. Their research has helped to redefine atomic and molecular physics, fields that have enjoyed explosive growth because of the ability of theory to accurately describe observed phenomena and give predictive support to experiments.
JILA’s atomic and molecular physics research is supported by the institute’s program in precision measurement, or precision metrology. Armed with this powerful tool, JILA’s atomic and molecular physicists are looking for answers to some of today’s most important scientific questions.
- How do cold and ultracold atoms and molecules collide and chemically react?
- How do electrons and nuclei in an atom or molecule influence each other and exchange energy?
- What is the contact and what does its presence tell us about an ultracold gas?
- Can we create additional novel states of matter in the laboratory?
- What can we learn about crystals found in nature by studying crystals of light?
- Can we make ultracold atom analogs of electronic devices?