Research Highlights

Nanoscience
Flaws
Published: August 01, 2014

The Raschke group recently came up with a clever way to detect folds and grain boundaries in graphene. a sheet made of a single layer of carbon atoms.Such defects stop the flow of electrons in graphene and are a big headache for engineers working on touch screens and other electronic devices made of this material.

PI: Markus Raschke
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Atomic & Molecular Physics
Quantum Entanglement
Published: July 13, 2014

The spooky quantum property of entanglement is set to become a powerful tool in precision measurement, thanks to researchers in the Thompson group. Entanglement means that the quantum states of something physical—two atoms, two hundred atoms, or two million atoms—interact and retain a connection, even over long distances.

PI: James Thompson
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Atomic & Molecular Physics | Precision Measurement
The Little Shop of Atoms
Published: June 26, 2014

Graduate student Adam Kaufman and his colleagues in the Regal and Rey groups have demonstrated a key first step in assembling quantum matter one atom at a time. Kaufman accomplished this feat by laser-cooling two atoms of rubidium (87Rb) trapped in separate laser beam traps called optical tweezers. Then, while maintaining complete control over the atoms to be sure they were identical in every way, he moved the optical tweezers closer and closer until they were about 600 nm apart. At this distance, the trapped atoms were close enough to “tunnel” their way over to the other laser beam trap if they were so inclined.

PI: Cindy Regal
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Laser Physics | Precision Measurement
Invisible Rulers of Light
Published: June 22, 2014

The Ye group has not only made two invisible rulers of extreme ultraviolet (XUV) light, but also figured out how to observe them with ordinary laboratory electronics. With this setup, the researchers were able to prove that the two rulers had extraordinarily long phase-coherence time. This feat is so profound, it is nearly certain to transform the investigation of matter with extreme ultraviolet light, according to Ye’s colleagues in precision measurement and laser science. This research was reported online in Nature Photonics this week.

PI: Jun Ye
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Precision Measurement
Sky Clocks and the World of Tomorrow
Published: June 13, 2014

Imagine a network of multiple clocks orbiting the Earth, not only reporting down to us, but also collaborating quantum mechanically among themselves to operate precisely in sync as a single global superclock, or world clock. The world clock is delivering the most precise timekeeping in all of human history—to every member nation regardless of politics, alliances, or behavior on the ground. Moreover, the world clock itself is virtually immune to sabotage and can peer under the surface of the Earth to uncover its detailed composition or out into space to reveal a better understanding of fundamental physical principles such as quantum mechanics and gravity. 

PI: Jun Ye
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Laser Physics
The Long and the Short of Soft X-rays
Published: May 27, 2014

Mid-infrared (mid-IR) laser light is accomplishing some remarkable things at JILA. This relatively long-wavelength light (2–4 µm), when used to drive a process called high-harmonic generation, can produce bright beams of soft x-rays with all their punch packed into isolated ultrashort bursts. And, all this takes place in a tabletop-size apparatus. The soft x-rays bursts have pulse durations measured in tens to hundreds of attoseconds (10-18 s).

PI: Andreas Becker | PI: Henry Kapteyn | PI: Margaret Murnane
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Biophysics
Crowd-Folding
Published: May 22, 2014

Biomolecules may not always behave the same way in test tubes as they do in living cells, a fact underscored by important new work by former research associate Nick Dupuis, graduate student Erik Holmstrom, and Fellow David Nesbitt. The researchers found that under crowded conditions that begin to mimic those found in cells, single RNA molecules folded 35 times faster than in the dilute solutions typically used in test-tube experiments.

PI: David Nesbitt
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Nanoscience
The SINS of Markus Raschke
Published: May 07, 2014

The Markus Raschke group has come up with an innovative way that may one day allow it to peer inside superconductors, new materials for solar cells, or even a single cell and identify the inner workings of these complex systems. The new method is able to determine where the different chemical constituents are located and how their spatial distribution determines their function.

PI: Markus Raschke
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Nanoscience
The Measure of Small Things
Published: April 23, 2014

Fellow Tom Perkins’ group is significantly closer to realizing its long-standing dream of using atomic force microscopy (AFM) to study how membrane proteins fold and unfold. Historically, scientists have used AFM to measure the mechanical forces needed to unfold individual proteins and the resulting increase in their lengths. However, the limitations of AFM itself have prevented researchers from watching the unfolding process in detail.

PI: Thomas Perkins
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Biophysics
The Unfolding Story of Telomerase
Published: April 17, 2014

Graduate student Erik Holmstrom and Fellow David Nesbitt have applied their laboratory research on the rates of RNA folding and unfolding to the medically important enzyme telomerase. Telomerase employs both protein and RNA components to lengthen chromosomes, which are shortened every time they are copied.

PI: David Nesbitt
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Quantum Information Science & Technology
Good Vibrations: The Experiment
Published: March 19, 2014

The Regal-Lehnert collaboration has just taken a significant step towards the goal of one day building a quantum information network. Large-scale fiber-optic networks capable of preserving fragile quantum states (which encode information) will be necessary to realize the benefits of superfast quantum computing.

PI: Cindy Regal | PI: Konrad Lehnert
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Atomic & Molecular Physics
The Resonance Motel
Published: March 13, 2014

Quantum chaos just showed up in an ultracold gas of erbium atoms, and the Bohn theory group knows why. Theorists expect quantum chaos to appear when quantum mechanical objects get sufficiently complicated. But until now, scientists hadn’t realized that something as simple as a pair of colliding atoms could be complicated enough for quantum chaos to appear.

PI: John Bohn
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Atomic & Molecular Physics
Dealing with Loss
Published: March 05, 2014

There’s exciting news from JILA’s ultracold molecule collaboration. The Jin, Ye, Holland, and Rey groups have come up with new theory (verified by experiment) that explains the suppression of chemical reactions between potassium-rubidium (KRb) molecules in the KRb quantum simulator. The main reason the molecules do not collide and react is continuous measurement of molecule loss from the simulator.

PI: Ana Maria Rey | PI: Deborah Jin | PI: Jun Ye | PI: Murray Holland
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Nanoscience
Fog Island
Published: February 26, 2014

When Andy Almand-Hunter and his colleagues in the Cundiff group shined a laser on a sample of gallium arsenide (GaAs), the last thing they were expecting to create was a fog of liquid-like quantum droplets, which the group named "dropletons." Dropletons are a new, stable form of matter much like an ordinary liquid—with one key difference.

PI: Steven Cundiff
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Biophysics | Nanoscience
bR Phone Home
Published: February 04, 2014

The groups of Fellow Adjoint Markus Raschke and Fellow Tom Perkins joined forces recently to shine light onto a bacterial membrane protein called bacteriorhodopsin (bR). They used a new infrared (IR) light imaging system with a spatial resolution and chemical sensitivity of just a few bR molecules. In their experiment, the tip of an atomic force microscope (AFM) acted like an antenna for the IR light, focusing it onto the sample.

PI: Markus Raschke | PI: Thomas Perkins
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Astrophysics
The Flip Side
Published: February 03, 2014

Fellows Mitch Begelman and Phil Armitage have just solved the 40-year old mystery of what causes the gas of stellar debris surrounding black holes in binaries to flip back and forth cyclically between a spherical cloud and a luminous disk.

PI: Mitch Begelman | PI: Phil Armitage
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Astrophysics
Guess What's Coming to Dinner?
Published: January 29, 2014

Black holes have a new item on their dinner menu: a three-dimensional glowing sphere of stellar debris that looks like a star. The sphere provides a sumptuous main course for a supermassive black hole, while emitting excess energy via jets erupting from its polar regions. The idea for this new type of gourmet feast for black holes comes compliments of graduate student Eric Coughlin and Fellow Mitch Begelman.

PI: Mitch Begelman
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Nanoscience
Adventures in Coupling
Published: January 28, 2014

Real-world quantum mechanics may not always work exactly like the simple picture presented in textbooks, according to observations made by research associate Gaël Nardin and his colleagues in the Cundiff group.

PI: Steven Cundiff
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Atomic & Molecular Physics
A Clockwork Blue Takes the Gold
Published: January 22, 2014

JILA and NIST labs are well on the way to creating astonishingly accurate optical atomic clocks based on the neutral atoms strontium (Sr) and ytterbium (Yb). The new technologies are already capable of the most meticulous timekeeping in human history.

PI: Jun Ye
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Atomic & Molecular Physics | Chemical Physics
Mission: Control
Published: January 14, 2014

Capturing and controlling the fleeting dance of electrons as they rearrange during a chemical reaction has been a long-standing challenge in science for several decades. Since electrons are much lighter than atoms, they can respond almost instantaneously – on time scales of hundreds of attoseconds, where an attosecond is 10-18 s.

PI: Henry Kapteyn | PI: Margaret Murnane
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