Research Highlights

Atomic & Molecular Physics
Puff the Magic Atoms
Published: January 13, 2014

The Cornell and Jin groups have just met the challenge of creating and studying an extremely strongly interacting Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). This feat was reported in Nature Physics online January 12, 2014. An example of an ordinary weakly interacting Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) is a quantum gas of rubidium atoms (85Rb) all piled up in a little ball whose temperature is a chilly 10 nK.

PI: Deborah Jin | PI: Eric Cornell
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Precision Measurement
The Dipolar Express
Published: December 06, 2013

Physicists wonder about some pretty strange things. For instance, one burning question is: How round is the electron? While the simplest picture of the electron is a perfect sphere, it is possible that it is instead shaped like an egg. The egg shape would look a bit like a tiny separation of positive and negative charges. Physicists call this kind of charge separation an electric dipole moment, or EDM. The existence of an EDM in the electron or any other subatomic particle will have a profound impact on our understanding of the fundamental laws of physics. 

PI: Eric Cornell | PI: John Bohn | PI: Jun Ye
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Quantum Information Science & Technology
This is the Dawning of the… Age of Entanglement
Published: October 14, 2013

Tauno Palomaki and his colleagues in the Lehnert group have just gone where no one has gone before: They’ve entangled the quantum motion of a vibrating drum with the quantum state of a moving electrical pulse. What’s more, they figured out how to storehalf of this novel entangled state in the drum (which is tiny compared to a musical drum, but huge compared to the atoms or molecules normally entangled in a lab). The drum can then generate another electrical pulse that is entangled with the first one!  This amazing feat was reported in Science.

PI: Konrad Lehnert
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Atomic & Molecular Physics | Precision Measurement
The Squeeze Machine
Published: October 11, 2013

Research associate Tom Purdy and his colleagues in the Regal group have just built an even better miniature light-powered machine that can now strip away noise from a laser beam. Their secret: a creative workaround of a quantum limit imposed by the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. This limit makes it impossible to simultaneously reduce the noise on both the amplitude and phase of light inside interferometers and other high-tech instruments that detect miniscule position changes.

PI: Cindy Regal
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Atomic & Molecular Physics
The Great Spin Swap
Published: September 18, 2013

Research associate Bo Yan and his colleagues recently observed spin exchanges in ultracold potassium-rubidium (KRb) molecules inside an optical lattice (a crystal of light formed by interacting laser beams). In solid materials, such spin exchanges are the building blocks of advanced materials and exotic behavior.

PI: Ana Maria Rey | PI: Deborah Jin | PI: Jun Ye
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Quantum Information Science & Technology
The Magnificent Quantum Laboratory
Published: August 08, 2013

Because quantum mechanics is crucial to understanding the behavior of everything in the Universe, one can understand key elements of the behavior of a neutron star by investigating the behavior of an atomic system in the laboratory. This is the promise of the new quantum simulator in the Ye labs. It is a fully controllable quantum system that is being used as a laboratory to study the behavior of other less controllable and more poorly understood quantum systems.

PI: Ana Maria Rey | PI: Jun Ye
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Astrophysics
Persistence of Memory
Published: August 02, 2013

What sets the stage for planet formation? To search for answers to this question, research associate Jake Simon and his colleagues are performing a series of high-level computer simulations of the outer disks around young stars such as TW Hydrae, shown here. Simon’s daunting task is being facilitated with new information that has just started to come in from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) observatory in Chile.

PI: Phil Armitage
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Nanoscience | Quantum Information Science & Technology
The Quantum Drum Song
Published: July 31, 2013

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
Life in the Fast Lane
Published: July 26, 2013

Many people are familiar with the beautiful harmonies created when two sound waves interfere with each other, producing a periodic and repeating pattern that is music to our ears. In a similar fashion, two interfering x-ray waves may soon make it possible to create the fastest possible strobe light ever made. This strobe light will blink fast enough to allow researchers to study the nuclei of atoms and other incredibly tiny structures. The new strobe light is actually very fast coherent laser-like radiation created by the interference of high-energy x-ray waves.

PI: Andreas Becker | PI: Henry Kapteyn | PI: Margaret Murnane
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Atomic & Molecular Physics
Quantum Legoland
Published: July 01, 2013

The quantum world is not quite as mysterious as we thought it was. It turns out that there are highways into understanding this strange universe. And, graduate students Minghui Xu and David Tieri with Fellow Murray Holland have just discovered one such superhighway that has been around since the 1950s. Traveling along this superhighway has made it possible to understand the quantum behavior of hundreds of atoms inside every laser used in JILA, including the superradiant laser in the Thompson lab that works entirely differently from all the others.

PI: Murray Holland
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Nanoscience
Not All who Wander are Lost
Published: June 25, 2013

When research associate Wei Xiong and graduate student Dan Hickstein studied quantum dots by shining laser light on them in the gas phase, they got some surprising results. The tiny chunks of material responded differently to series of two laser pulses — depending on their size. Scientists already knew that most of their quantum dots would end up with at least part of an electron wandering around outside of them for some period of time. However, Xiong and his colleagues showed that the electrons from the smallest quantum dots traveled the farthest away.

PI: Henry Kapteyn | PI: Margaret Murnane
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Atomic & Molecular Physics
Trapper Marmot and the Stone Cold Molecules
Published: April 01, 2013

The Ye group has opened a new gateway into the relatively unexplored terrain of ultracold chemistry. Research associate Matt Hummon, graduate students Mark Yeo and Alejandra Collopy, newly minted Ph.D. Ben Stuhl, Fellow Jun Ye, and a visiting colleague Yong Xia (East China Normal University) have built a magneto-optical trap (MOT) for yttrium oxide (YO) molecules. The two-dimensional MOT uses three lasers and carefully adjusted magnetic fields to partially confine, concentrate, and cool the YO molecules to transverse temperatures of ~2 mK. It is the first device of its kind to successfully laser cool and confine ordinary molecules found in nature.

PI: Jun Ye
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Quantum Information Science & Technology
The Transporter
Published: March 15, 2013

The Lehnert group has come up with a clever way to transport and store quantum information. Research associate Tauno Palomaki, graduate student Jennifer Harlow, NIST colleagues Jon Teufel and Ray Simmonds, and Fellow Konrad Lehnert have encoded a quantum state onto an electric circuit and figured out how to transport the information from the circuit into a tiny mechanical drum, where is stored. Palomaki and his colleagues can retrieve the information by reconverting it into an electrical signal.

PI: Konrad Lehnert
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Astrophysics
Alien Atmospheric Chemistry
Published: March 13, 2013

Astrophysicist Fellow Jeff Linsky and his colleagues from CU’s Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy have come up with a neat strategy for helping to determine whether an exoplanet’s atmosphere contains evidence of Earth-like life. The first step is to see whether an exoplanet’s atmosphere contains oxygen (O2), ozone (O3), or other molecules that could have been produced by Earth-like organisms such as the plants that produce O2. Next, Linsky and his collaborators propose analyzing spectral lines from the host star’s light to determine if the same molecules could exist in the atmosphere without life.

PI: Jeffrey Linsky
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Astrophysics
Countdown to Launch
Published: February 15, 2013

Fellow Mitch Begelman and colleague Marek Sikora of the Polish Academy of Sciences have proposed a solution for the long-standing puzzle of what causes black holes to launch powerful jets. Jets are extremely energetic material (plasma) traveling at very close to the speed of light and spanning distances of thousands to hundreds of thousands of light years.

PI: Mitch Begelman
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Precision Measurement | Quantum Information Science & Technology
Position Wanted
Published: February 14, 2013

Researchers in the Regal group have gotten so good at using laser light to track the exact position of a tiny drum that they have been able to observe a limit imposed by the laws of quantum mechanics. In a recent experiment, research associate Tom Purdy, graduate student Robert Peterson, and Fellow Cindy Regal were able to measure the motion of the drum by sending light back and forth through it many times. During the measurement, however, 100 million photons from the laser beam struck the drum at random and made it vibrate. This extra vibration obscured the motion of the drum at exactly the level of precision predicted by the laws of quantum mechanics.

PI: Cindy Regal
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Atomic & Molecular Physics
Model Behavior
Published: February 13, 2013

Ana Maria Rey’s group is devising new theoretical methods to help experimentalists use ultracold atoms, ions, and molecules to model quantum magnetism in solids. Research associate Kaden Hazzard, former research associate Salvatore Manmana, newly minted Ph.D. Michael Foss-Feig, and Fellow Rey are working on developing new tools to understand these models, which describe both solids and ultracold particles. The theorists are collaborating with three experimental teams at JILA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

PI: Ana Maria Rey
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Atomic & Molecular Physics
Physicists on the Verge of Mean-Field Breakdown
Published: February 05, 2013

When experimental physicists at Penn State were unable to observe some of the predicted behaviors of ultracold rubidium (Rb) atoms expanding inside a two-dimensional crystal of light, they turned to their theorist colleagues at the City University of New York and JILA for an explanation. Graduate student Shuming Li and Fellow Ana Maria Rey were happy to oblige.

PI: Ana Maria Rey
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Atomic & Molecular Physics
The Pathfinder
Published: January 22, 2013

The Cundiff group has taken an important step forward in the study of the quantum world. It has come up with an experimental technique to measure key parameters needed to solve the Schrödinger equation. The amazing Schrödinger equation describes the time-dependent evolution of quantum states in a physical system such as the group’s hot gas of potassium atoms (K). But, for the equation to work, someone has to figure out a key part of the equation known as the Hamiltonian.

PI: Steven Cundiff
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Going for the Gold
Published: January 07, 2013

Gold glitters because it is highly reflective, a quality once considered important for precision measurements made with gold-coated probes in atomic force microscopy (AFM). In reality, the usual gold coating on AFM probes is a major cause of force instability and measurement imprecision, according to research done by the Perkins group.

PI: Thomas Perkins
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