Research Highlights

Laser Physics
Reconstructing Laser Pulses
Published: July 19, 2021

Many physicists use lasers to study quantum mechanics, atomic, molecular, and nanophysics. While these lasers can be helpful in the research process, there are certain constraints for the researcher. According to JILA Fellow Andreas Becker: "for certain wavelengths of these laser pulses, such as deep ultraviolet, you may not know or not be able to measure the temporal profile." The temporal profile of a laser pulse is however important for researchers when analyzing data. "A lot of people cannot fully analyze their data, because they don't know the details of the pulse that was used to produce the data," said graduate student Spencer Walker. As a way to research this constraint, the Becker and Jaron-Becker laboratories collaborated to publish a paper in Optics Letters, suggesting a possible solution.

PI: Agnieszka Jaron-Becker | PI: Andreas Becker
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Atomic & Molecular Physics | Laser Physics
The Atomic Trampoline
Published: July 02, 2021

The process of creating spin-polarized electrons has been studied for some time but continues to surprise physicists. These types of electrons have their spin aligned in a specific direction. The probability of creating a spin-polarized electron from an atom tends to be rather small except in some very specific situations. Yet in a new paper published in Physical Review A, JILA graduate student Spencer Walker, former graduate student Joel Venzke, and former undergraduate student Lucas Kolanz in the Becker Lab theorized a new way towards enhancing this probability through the use of ultrashort laser pulses and electron’s so-called doorway states. These doorway states are excited states of an electron in an atom that is closest to its lowest energy state, the ground state. 

PI: Andreas Becker
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Precision Measurement | Quantum Information Science & Technology
Wiggles in Time: The Search for Dark Matter Continues
Published: June 17, 2021

In a new paper published in Physical Review Letters, JILA and NIST Fellows Eric Cornell, Jun Ye, and Konrad Lehnert developed a method for measuring a potential dark matter candidate, known as an axion-like particle. Axion-like particles are a potential class of dark matter particle which could explain some aspects of galactic structure. This work is also a result of collaboration with Victor Flambaum who is a leading theorist studying possible violations of fundamental symmetries. 

PI: Jun Ye | PI: Eric Cornell | PI: Konrad Lehnert
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Galaxy Quest: Stellar Bars and Dark Halos
Published: June 04, 2021

When it comes to galaxies in our universe, there is still much work to do. Part of this work is being done by JILA Fellow and Assistant Professor of Astrophysics, Ann-Marie Madigan, and postdoc Dr. Angela Collier. In a paper recently published in The Astrophysical Journal, Collier and Madigan postulate that the evolution of a galaxy can be affected by dark matter interacting with the stars within the galaxy. Like everything else, galaxies evolve over billions of years, changing shape, speed of rotation, and other factors. Studying what affects galaxy evolution is important in answering questions from the foundation of our universe, how stars and planets are formed, to the origins of dark matter. 

PI: Ann-Marie Madigan
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Chemical Physics | Quantum Information Science & Technology
The Case of the Missing Signal
Published: June 02, 2021

Most researchers would agree that it is much easier to write a paper about an effect that is observed than it is to prove it doesn’t exist when no signal is observed. NIST JILA Fellow Ralph Jimenez found this to be the case, in contributing to a recent paper published in Physical Review Applied. The authors of this paper were originally hoping to observe the increased efficiency in two-photon absorption, a special type of process used in microscopy of living tissue, that had been reported by other research labs. This increased efficiency would be determined by an additional absorption signal than the one being produced by classical light. This additional signal came from using entangled photons. Instead, Jimenez and his team of collaborators from NIST found no additional signal in their measurements, indicating a lack of absorption entirely from the entangled photons. 

PI: Ralph Jimenez
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Quantum Information Science & Technology
The Gap in Quantum Understanding: How to Accurately Communicate Quantum Ideas
Published: June 01, 2021

The word “quantum” can be mysterious and unfamiliar to the general public. Most of the public’s exposure to quantum technology has been Hollywood-ized and framed as a “catch-all” for hard-to-define scientific processes. This misunderstanding causes problems, as quantum technology is quickly being developed and commercialized. With the predicted “boom” in quantum technology predicted by experts, it is important to realize the repercussions of this misunderstanding. Particularly, writers, scientists, and citizens need to be aware of how to communicate and invoke to the public, an appreciation of the true science of quantum physics. 

PI: Dana Anderson
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Laser Physics | Quantum Information Science & Technology
BCS: Building a Cavity Superconductor
Published: May 18, 2021

The idea of quantum simulation has only become more widely researched in the past few decades. Quantum simulators allow for the study of a quantum system that would be difficult to study easily and quickly in a laboratory or model with a supercomputer. A new paper published in Physical Review Letters, by a collaboration between theorists in the Rey Group and experimentalists in the Thompson laboratory propose a way to engineer a quantum simulator of superconductivity that can measure phenomena so far inaccessible in real materials. 

PI: Ana Maria Rey | PI: James Thompson
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Scientists Dig Deeper into Subject of First-Ever Image of a Black Hole
Published: May 10, 2021

JILA Fellow Jason Dexter works with the Event Horizon Team to further study the first photograph ever taken of a black hole. 

PI: Jason Dexter
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Atomic & Molecular Physics | Precision Measurement
NIST Team Compares 3 Top Atomic Clocks With Record Accuracy Over Both Fiber and Air
Published: March 24, 2021

In a significant advance toward the future redefinition of the international unit of time, the second, a research team led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has compared three of the world’s leading atomic clocks with record accuracy over both air and optical fiber links.

PI: Jun Ye
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The Forces involved in Folding Proteins
Published: March 22, 2021

In a new paper, JILA physicist Thomas Perkins collaborated with CU Biochemistry Prof. Marcello Sousa to dissect the mechanisms of how certain bacteria become more virulent. The research brings together the Perkins lab expertise in single-molecule studies and the Sousa lab expertise in the type III secretion system, a key component of Salmonella bacteria. 

PI: Thomas Perkins
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Atomic & Molecular Physics | Biophysics | Chemical Physics
Highlighting the Research Centers within JILA
Published: March 18, 2021

JILA is the host of multiple centers within its campus. Some are National Science Foundation (NSF) funded and others funded by more private centers. Each center focuses on specific topics to advance the knowledge, education, and research on some of the biggest ideas within physics. 

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Quantum Information Science & Technology
Molecules in Flat Lands: an Entanglement Paradise
Published: March 18, 2021

Entangled particles have always fascinated physicists, as measuring one entangled particle can result in  a change in another entangled particle, famously dismissed as “spooky action at a distance” by Einstein. By now, physicists understand this strange effect and how to make use of it, for example to increase the sensitivity of measurements. However, entangled states are very fragile, as they can be easily disrupted by decoherence. Researchers have already created entangled states in atoms, photons, electrons and ions, but only recently have studies begun to explore  entanglement in gases of polar molecules. 

PI: Ana Maria Rey | PI: Jun Ye
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Quantum Information Science & Technology
Using Quantum Knots to Build a Secure Internet
Published: March 01, 2021

When looking within a quantum internet, the Sun Lab is looking at specifically photons. By entangling these photons, scientists tie little quantum knots between them, so they jointly represent the information to be delivered. The photons aren’t just paired off within these quantum knots. They’re connected to hundreds of other photons in a tree-shaped pattern. The robust redundancy of these photons means that scientists can still read the information, even if a few photons are lost.

PI: Shuo Sun
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Astrophysics | Precision Measurement | Quantum Information Science & Technology
Scientists develop new, faster method for seeking out dark matter
Published: February 11, 2021

For nearly a century, scientists have worked to unravel the mystery of dark matter—an elusive substance that spreads through the universe and likely makes up much of its mass, but has so far proven impossible to detect in experiments. Now, a team of researchers have used an innovative technique called “quantum squeezing” to dramatically speed up the search for one candidate for dark matter in the lab. 

PI: Konrad Lehnert
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Atomic & Molecular Physics | Laser Physics | Quantum Information Science & Technology
New JILA Tools ‘Turn On’ Quantum Gases of Ultracold Molecules
Published: December 12, 2020

For the first time, researchers can turn on an electric field to manipulate molecular interactions, get them to cool down further, and start to explore collective physics where all molecules are coupled to each other.

PI: Jun Ye
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Atomic & Molecular Physics | Laser Physics | Quantum Information Science & Technology
JILA’s Electric ‘Knob’ Tunes Chemical Reaction Rates in Quantum Gas
Published: December 10, 2020

Building on their newfound ability to induce molecules in ultracold gases to interact with each other over long distances, JILA researchers have used an electric “knob” to influence molecular collisions and dramatically raise or lower chemical reaction rates.

PI: Jun Ye
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Atomic & Molecular Physics | Laser Physics | Quantum Information Science & Technology
Advanced Atomic Clock Makes a Better Dark Matter Detector
Published: November 30, 2020

JILA researchers have used a state-of-the-art atomic clock to narrow the search for elusive dark matter, an example of how continual improvements in clocks have value beyond timekeeping.

PI: Jun Ye
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Atomic & Molecular Physics
Measuring Spinning Donuts
Published: November 04, 2020

Follow that electron! JILA researchers have proposed a means of capturing an electron's flight path during ionization, and in doing so, determining the state of the atom at that moment.

PI: Andreas Becker | PI: Agnieszka Jaron-Becker
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Chemical Physics
Electron Fly-Bys on the Chemical Reaction Pathway
Published: November 02, 2020

When it comes to chemical reactions, shape matters. The Lewandowski Group have studied acetylene and its reactions with propyne and allene to find out how an isomer changes the chemical reaction pathway.

PI: Heather Lewandowski
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Physics Education
Now Hiring: The New Quantum Workforce
Published: October 29, 2020

We're in the Second Quantum Revolution, and companies are eager to build and market new technology based on rapid advances in quantum physics. JILA Fellow Heather Lewandowski and her group decided to find out what qualifications these companies were looking for in the new quantum workforce. 

PI: Heather Lewandowski
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