Research Highlights

Nanoscience | Precision Measurement | Quantum Information Science & Technology
How Cold Can a Tiny Drum Get?
Published: July 20, 2016

Bob Peterson and his colleagues in the Lehnert-Regal lab recently set out to try something that had never been done before: use laser cooling to systematically reduce the temperature of a tiny drum made of silicon nitride as low as allowed by the laws of quantum mechanics. Although laser cooling has become commonplace for atoms, researchers have only recently used lasers to cool tiny silicon nitride drums, stretched over a silicon frame, to their quantum ground state. Peterson and his team decided to see just how cold their drum could get via laser cooling.

PI: Cindy Regal | PI: Konrad Lehnert
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Precision Measurement
A Wrinkle in Time
Published: June 28, 2016

Fellow Judah Levine recently presented a discussion of our understanding of time from antiquity to the present day in an insightful paper published in the April 2016 issue of the European Physical Journal H.

PI: Judah Levine
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Laser Physics | Nanoscience
The Great Escape
Published: June 02, 2016

The Kapteyn/Murnane group has measured how long it takes an electron born into an excited state inside a piece of nickel to escape from its birthplace. The electron’s escape is related to the structure of the metal. The escape is the fastest material process that has been measured before in the laboratory––on a time scale of a few hundred attoseconds, or 10-18 s. This groundbreaking experiment was reported online in Scienceon June 2, 2016. Also in Science on July 1, 2016, Uwe Bovensiepen and Manuel Ligges offered important insights into the unusual significance of this work. 

PI: Henry Kapteyn | PI: Margaret Murnane | PI: Murray Holland
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Atomic & Molecular Physics
Stalking the Wild Molecules
Published: May 04, 2016

The Ye group just solved a major problem for using molecular fingerprinting techniques to identify large, complex molecules: The researchers used an infrared (IR) frequency comb laser to identify four different large or complicated molecules. The IR laser-light absorption technique worked well for the first time with these larger molecules because the group combined it with buffer gas cooling, which precooled their samples to just a few degrees above absolute zero. 

PI: Jun Ye
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Atomic & Molecular Physics
Talking Atoms & Collective Laser Supercooling
Published: April 21, 2016

Move over, single-atom laser cooling! The Holland theory group has just come up with a stunning idea for a new kind of laser cooling for use with ensembles of atoms that all “talk” to each other. In other words, the theory looks at laser cooling not from the perspective of cooling a single atom, but rather from the perspective of many atoms working together to rapidly cool themselves to a miniscule fraction of a degree above absolute zero.

PI: John (Jinx) Cooper | PI: Murray Holland
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Atomic & Molecular Physics
The Ultramodern Molecule Factory: I. Doublons
Published: April 20, 2016

The old JILA molecule factory (built in 2002) produced the world’s first ultracold polar molecules [potassium-rubidium (KRb)] in 2008. The old factory has been used since then for ultracold chemistry investigations and studies of the quantum behavior of ultracold molecules and the atoms that form them. The Jin-Ye group, which runs the molecule factory, is now wrapping up operations in the old factory with experiments designed to improve operations in the ultramodern factory, which is close to completion.

PI: Ana Maria Rey | PI: Deborah Jin | PI: Jun Ye
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Atomic & Molecular Physics | Precision Measurement
Quantum Baseball
Published: March 21, 2016

The Ye and Rey groups have discovered the strange rules of quantum baseball in which strontium (Sr) atoms are the players, and photons of light are the balls. The balls control the players by not only getting the atoms excited, but also working together. The players coordinate throwing and catching the balls. While this is going on, the balls can change the state of the players! Sometimes the balls even escape the quantum baseball game altogether and land on detectors in the laboratory.

PI: Ana Maria Rey | PI: Jun Ye
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Laser Physics
Reconstruction
Published: February 10, 2016

Cong Chen and his colleagues in the Kapteyn/Murnane group have generated one of the most complex coherent light fields ever produced using attosecond (10-18 s) pulses of circularly polarized extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light. (The circularly polarized EUV light is shown as rotating blue sphere on the left of the picture. The complex coherent light field is illustrated with the teal, lilac, and purple structures along the driving laser beam (wide red line).

PI: Henry Kapteyn | PI: Margaret Murnane
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Atomic & Molecular Physics | Quantum Information Science & Technology
Creative Adventures in Coupling
Published: January 28, 2016

The Rey and Ye groups are in the midst of an extended collaboration on using the Ye group’s strontium (Sr) lattice clock for studies of spin-orbit coupling in pancake-like layers of cold Sr atoms. Spin-orbit coupling means an atom’s motion is correlated with its spin. It occurs in everyday materials when negatively charged electrons move in response to electromagnetic fields inside a crystal.

PI: Ana Maria Rey | PI: Jun Ye
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Astrophysics
We’ve Looked at Clouds from Both Sides Now
Published: December 08, 2015

In 2008, Fellow Jeff Linsky and his colleague Seth Redfield of Wesleyan University used spectral information gathered by the Hubble Space Telescope to figure out that the solar system is surrounded by 15 nearby clouds of warm gas, all within 50 light years of the Sun. In 2014, Cécile Gry of Aix-Marseille Université (France) and Edward Jenkins of Princeton University Observatory analyzed the same data, but came up with a much simpler picture of the local interstellar medium, or LISM.

PI: Jeffrey Linsky
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Laser Physics
Back to the Future: The Ultraviolet Surprise
Published: December 03, 2015

Imagine laser-like x-ray beams that can “see” through materials––all the way into the heart of atoms. Or, envision an exquisitely controlled four-dimensional x-ray microscope that can capture electron motions or watch chemical reactions as they happen. Such exquisite imaging may soon be possible with laser-like x-rays produced on a laboratory optical table. These possibilities have opened up because of new research from the Kapteyn/Murnane group.

PI: Agnieszka Jaron-Becker | PI: Andreas Becker | PI: Henry Kapteyn | PI: Margaret Murnane
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Nanoscience | Quantum Information Science & Technology
Dancing to the Quantum Drum Song
Published: November 30, 2015

In the future, quantum microwave networks may handle quantum information transfer via optical fibers or microwave cables. The evolution of a quantum microwave network will rely on innovative microwave circuits currently being developed and characterized by the Lehnert group. Applications for this innovative technology could one day include quantum computing, converters that transform microwave signals to optical light while preserving any encoded quantum information, and advanced quantum electronics devices.

PI: Konrad Lehnert
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Atomic & Molecular Physics
A Thousand Splendid Pairs
Published: November 06, 2015

JILA’s cold molecule collaboration (Jin and Ye Groups, with theory support from the Rey Group) recently made a breakthrough in its efforts to use ultracold polar molecules to study the complex physics of large numbers of interacting quantum particles. By closely packing the molecules into a 3D optical lattice (a sort of “crystal of light”), the team was able to create the first “highly degenerate” gas of ultracold molecules.

PI: Ana Maria Rey | PI: Deborah Jin | PI: Jun Ye
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Atomic & Molecular Physics | Quantum Information Science & Technology
Natural Born Entanglers
Published: November 02, 2015

The Regal and Rey groups have come up with a novel way to generate and propagate quantum entanglement [1], a key feature required for quantum computing. Quantum computing requires that bits of information called qubits be moved from one location to another, be available to interact in prescribed ways, and then be isolated for storage or subsequent interactions. The group showed that single neutral atoms carried in tiny traps called optical tweezers may be a promising technology for the job!

PI: Ana Maria Rey | PI: Cindy Regal
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Atomic & Molecular Physics
Born of Frustration
Published: October 21, 2015

Scientists often use ultracold atoms to study the behavior of atoms and electrons in solids and liquids (a.k.a. condensed matter). Their goal is to uncover microscopic quantum behavior of these condensed matter systems and develop a controlled environment to model materials with new and advanced functionality.

PI: Ana Maria Rey
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Nanoscience
The Land of Enhancement: AFM Spectroscopy
Published: October 16, 2015

The Perkins Group has demonstrated a 50-to-100 times improvement in the time resolution for studying the details of protein folding and unfolding on a commercial Atomic Force Microscope (AFM). This enhanced real time probing of protein folding is revealing details in these complex processes never seen before. This substantial enhancement in AFM force spectroscopy may one day have powerful clinical applications, including in the development of drugs to treat disease caused by misfolded proteins. Misfolded proteins are implicated in such fatal maladies as Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease and mad cow disease, both of which are caused by prions.

PI: Thomas Perkins
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Astrophysics
Turbulence: An Unexpected Journey
Published: October 16, 2015

Fellow Phil Armitage and his collaborator Jake Simon of the Southwest Research Institute recently conducted a theoretical study of turbulence in the outer reaches of an accretion disk around HD 163296, a nearby young star. Meanwhile, the Atacama large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in northern Chile observed the same accretion disk. There were intriguing and unexpected differences between what the theory predicted and what the observation revealed.

PI: Phil Armitage
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Atomic & Molecular Physics
From BEC to Breathing Forever
Published: October 05, 2015

It took Eric Cornell three years to build JILA’s first Top Trap with his own two hands in the lab. The innovative trap relied primarily on magnetic fields and gravity to trap ultracold atoms. In 1995, Cornell and his colleagues used the Top Trap to make the world’s first Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC), an achievement that earned Cornell and Carl Wieman the Nobel Prize in 2001.

PI: Eric Cornell | PI: Heather Lewandowski
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Laser Physics
The Guiding Light
Published: September 21, 2015

The Kapteyn/Murnane group, with Visiting Fellow Charles Durfee, has figured out how to use visible lasers to control x-ray light! The new method not only preserves the beautiful coherence of laser light, but also makes an array of perfect x-ray laser beams with controlled direction and polarization. Such pulses may soon be used for observing chemical reactions or investigating the electronic motions inside atoms. They are also well suited for studying magnetic materials and chiral molecules like proteins or DNA that come in left- and right-handed versions.

PI: Henry Kapteyn | PI: Margaret Murnane
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Quantum Information Science & Technology
An Array of Possibilities
Published: August 19, 2015

Graduate student Brian Lester of the Regal group has taken an important step toward building larger, more complex systems from single-atom building blocks. His accomplishment opens the door to advances in neutral-atom quantum computing, investigations of the interplay of spin and motion as well as the synthesis of novel single molecules from different atoms.

PI: Cindy Regal
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