Research Highlights

Displaying 21 - 40 of 433
Atomic & Molecular Physics | Physics Education
Where Science Meets Art: A Mural on AMO Physics
Published: February 02, 2022

JILA Fellow Cindy Regal has helped consult on a new mural placed in Washington Park in Denver, Colorado. The mural, titled Leading Light, loosely alludes to AMO physics, which Regal studies by using laser beams. With bright yellows and vivid pinks, the mural depicts four women interacting with different blue spheres, representing electrons. One woman wears sunglasses, modeled on thelaser goggles that JILAns wear for lab safety. The artist, Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya, found Regal's work captivating. “We share a vision to not only uplift women in STEM and to bring science and our society closer together, but also to foster dynamic and organic relationships with science in everyone, whether or not they choose to become scientists,” the artist said.

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PI(s):
Cindy Regal
Astrophysics | Biophysics | Quantum Information Science & Technology
A Look at She Has the Floor
Published: January 17, 2022

When it comes to inspiring young people to pursue a career within the sciences, you can't start too early. At least, that's what the JILA Excellence in Diversity and Inclusivity (JEDI) group believed when they collaborated with the Colorado non-profit organization Pretty Brainy to develop a speaker series. The series, designed for girls from ages 11 and up, featured the voices of several women JILAns, all focusing on their work and giving tools for success to this younger generation. Over the course of 8 weeks, women of all ages could virtually tune in to hear some of the brightest female minds from JILA discuss the importance of mentorship, perseverance, failure, and of course, some of the newest findings within physics. 

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PI(s):
Ann-Marie Madigan
Atomic & Molecular Physics | Precision Measurement | Quantum Information Science & Technology
Colorado Congressman Joe Neguse tours JILA
Published: December 20, 2021

Last week, U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse got a first-hand look at the future of ultrafast lasers, record-setting clocks, and quantum computers on the CU Boulder campus. Neguse visited the university Thursday to tour facilities at JILA, a research partnership between CU Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

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PI(s):
Jun Ye | Margaret Murnane
Atomic & Molecular Physics | Quantum Information Science & Technology
Atomic Musical Chairs
Published: November 18, 2021

How atoms interact with light reflects some of the most basic principles in physics. On a quantum level, how atoms and light interact has been a topic of interest in the worldwide scientific community for many years. Light scattering is a process where incoming light excites an atom to a higher-lying energy state from which it subsequently decays back to its ground state by reemitting a quantum of light. In the quantum realm, there are many factors that affect light scattering. In a new paper published in Science, JILA and NIST Fellow Jun Ye and his laboratory members report on how light scattering is affected by the quantum nature of the atoms, more specifically, thequantum statistical rule such as the Pauli Exclusion Principle.

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PI(s):
Jun Ye
Atomic & Molecular Physics | Quantum Information Science & Technology
A Magic Recipe for a Quantum Interferometer
Published: November 17, 2021

Gravimetry, or the measurement of the strength of a gravitational field (or gravitational acceleration), has been of great interest to physicists since the 1600s. One of the most precise ways to measure gravitational acceleration is to use an atom interferometer. There are many different types of atom interferometers but so far all operate using uncorrelated atoms that are not entangled. To build the best one allowed in nature, it requires harnessing the power of quantum entanglement. However, making a quantum interferometer with entangled atoms is challenging. JILA Fellows Ana Maria Rey and James K. Thompson have published a paper in Physical Review Letters that discusses a new protocol that could make entangled quantum interferometers easier to produce and use.

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PI(s):
Ana Maria Rey | James Thompson
Quantum Information Science & Technology
Message Received: Studying Quantum Channels
Published: November 11, 2021

Physicists study many forms of communication, including quantum communication. Thanks to specific properties of quantum mechanics, like entanglement, information integrity can be better maintained with quantum communications, even being hackproof in some cases. Quantum entanglement is the property that allows two molecules, each in a random quantum state, to be in perfect harmony with each other. This is important, as one common test of quantum communication devices, a.k.a., quantum channels, is to send entangled photons (light particles) down these channels. Entanglement helps when photons are lost or absorbed, as the redundancy in information being sent this way ensures that some of the information will still reach the receiver. 

Quantum channels have their own quirks that make them unique to study. In a new paper published in Nature Communications, post-doctoral researcher Vikesh Siddhu of JILA Fellow Graeme Smith's team looked at some of the logistics in using quantum channels to send information. Siddhu analyzed how noise occurring in a quantum channel affects the information it communicates.

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PI(s):
Graeme Smith
Astrophysics
Gravitational ‘kick’ may explain the strange shape at the center of Andromeda
Published: November 02, 2021

When two galaxies collide, the supermassive black holes at their cores release a devastating gravitational “kick,” similar to the recoil from a shotgun. New research led by CU Boulder suggests that this kick may be so powerful it can knock millions of stars into wonky orbits. 

The research, published Oct. 29 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, helps solve a decades-old mystery surrounding a strangely-shaped cluster of stars at the heart of the Andromeda Galaxy. It might also help researchers better understand the process of how galaxies grow by feeding on each other.

“When scientists first looked at Andromeda, they were expecting to see a supermassive black hole surrounded by a relatively symmetric cluster of stars,” said Ann-Marie Madigan, a fellow of JILA, a joint research institute between CU Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). “Instead, they found this huge, elongated mass.”

Now, she and her colleagues think they have an explanation.

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PI(s):
Ann-Marie Madigan
Quantum Information Science & Technology | Other
Help Wanted: How to Build a Prepared and Diverse Quantum Workforce
Published: October 21, 2021

The second quantum revolution is underway, a period marked by significant advances in quantum technology, and huge discoveries within quantum science. From tech giants like Google and IBM, who build their own quantum computers, to quantum network startups like Aliro Quantum, companies are eager to profit from this revolution. However, doing so takes a new type of workforce, one trained in quantum physics and quantum technology. The skillset required for this occupation is unique, and few universities expose students to real-world quantum technology. 

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PI(s):
Heather Lewandowski | Jun Ye | Margaret Murnane
Astrophysics
The Mystery of Black Hole Flares
Published: October 19, 2021

In 2019, a team of researchers used an international network of radio telescopes—called the Event Horizon Telescope—to take the first photo of a supermassive black hole in the center of the elliptical galaxy Messier 87 (M87). On that team of researchers was JILA Fellow Jason Dexter. Since then, Dexter has been studying M87's black hole further using simulations, with code written by researchers at the University of Illinois. As described in a new paper published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS), Dexter, and his team of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, collaborated with researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of Illinois to create a new simulation studying the edge of a black hole. 

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PI(s):
Jason Dexter
Quantum Information Science & Technology
Don’t React, Interact: Looking Into Inert Molecular Gases
Published: October 11, 2021

One of the major strengths of JILA are the frequent and ongoing collaborations between experimentalists and theorists, which have led to incredible discoveries in physics. One of these partnerships is between JILA Fellow John Bohn and JILA and NIST Fellow Jun Ye. Bohn's team of theorists has partnered with Ye's experimentalist laboratory for nearly twenty years, from the very beginning of Ye’s cold molecule research when he became a JILA Fellow. Recently in their collaborations, the researchers have been studying a three-dimensional molecular gas made of 40K87Rb molecules. In a paper published in Nature Physics, the combined team illustrated new quantum mechanical tricks in making this gas unreactive, thus enjoying a long life (for a gas), while at the same time letting the molecules in the gas interact and socialize (thermalize) with each other.

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PI(s):
John Bohn | Jun Ye
Atomic & Molecular Physics | Biophysics | Chemical Physics
When Breath Becomes Data
Published: October 05, 2021

There are many ways to diagnose health conditions. One of the most common methods is blood testing. This sort of test can look for hundreds of different kinds of molecules in the body to determine if an individual has any diseases or underlying conditions. Not everyone is a fan of needles, however, which makes blood tests a big deal for some people. Another method of diagnosis is breath analysis. In this process, an individual's breath is measured for different molecules as indicators of certain health conditions. Breath analysis has been fast progressing in recent years and is continuing to gain more and more research interest. It is, however, experimentally challenging due to the extremely low concentrations of molecules present in each breath, limited number of detectable molecular species, and the long data-analysis time required. Now, a JILA-based collaboration between the labs of NIST Fellows Jun Ye and David Nesbitt has resulted in a more robust and precise breath-testing apparatus. In combining a special type of laser with a mirrored cavity, the team of researchers was able to precisely measure four molecules in human breath at unprecedented sensitivity levels, with the promise of measuring many more types of molecules. The team published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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PI(s):
Jun Ye | David Nesbitt
Atomic & Molecular Physics | Nanoscience
Seeing with the “Nano” Eye
Published: October 04, 2021

Understanding the chemical and physical properties of surfaces at the molecular level has become increasingly relevant in the fields of medicine, semiconductors, rechargeable batteries, etc. For example, when developing new medications, determining the chemical properties of a pill's coating can help to better control how the pill is digested or dissolved. In semiconductors, precise atomic level control of interfaces determines performance of computer chips. And in batteries, capacity and lifetime is often limited by electrode surface degradation.  These are just three examples of the many applications in which the understanding of surface coatings and molecular interactions are important.
The imaging of molecular surfaces has long been a complicated process within the field of physics. The images are often fuzzy, with limited spatial resolution, and researchers may not be able to distinguish different types of molecules, let alone how the molecules interact with each other. But it is precisely this–molecular interactions–which control the function and performance of molecular materials and surfaces.  
In a new paper published in Nano Letters, JILA Fellow Markus Raschke and graduate student Thomas Gray describe how they developed a way to image and visualize how surface molecules couple and interact with quantum precision. The team believes that their nanospectroscopy method could be used for molecular engineering to develop better molecular surfaces, with controlled properties for molecular electronic, photonic, or biomedical applications.

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PI(s):
Markus Raschke
Quantum Information Science & Technology
From Liquid to Gas: A Way to study BEC
Published: September 29, 2021

The Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC) has been studied for decades, ever since its prediction by scientists Satyandra Nath Bose and Albert Einstein nearly 100 years ago. The BEC is a gas of atoms cooled to almost absolute zero. At low enough temperatures, quantum mechanics allows the locations of the atoms in the BEC to be uncertain to the extent that they can’t be located individually in the gas. The BEC has a special history with JILA, as it was at JILA that the first gaseous condensate was produced in 1995 by JILA Fellows Eric Cornell (NIST) and Carl Wieman (University of Colorado Boulder). Since 2005, research on dipolar BEC has continued, using different theories to describe the droplet’s interactions. In a paper recently published in Physical Review A, first author, and graduate student, Eli Halperin and JILA fellow John Bohn theorize a way to study the BEC using a hyperspherical approach. While the name may sound intimidating, the hyperspherical approach is simply a systematic way to look at a many-body problem. The many body problem refers to a large category of problems regarding microscopic systems with interacting particles. Bohn and Halperin applied this approach to a dipolar BEC specifically.

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PI(s):
John Bohn
Laser Physics | Nanoscience
Microscopic Heat Transport
Published: September 28, 2021

Two new papers from the Murnane and Kapteyn group are changing the way heat transport is viewed on a nanoscale, and explain the group’s surprising finding that nanoscale heat transport can be far more efficient than originally thought. One of these papers, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), explains heat transport for the tiniest of hotspots, with sizes <100 nm. The other, published in American Chemical Society Nano (ACS Nano), presents a theory that is applicable to larger arrays of hotspots. Both papers postulate theories that can fully explain the surprising data collected by the team of researchers, showing that heat transport on scale lengths relevant to a wide range of nanotechnologies is more efficient than originally thought.

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PI(s):
Margaret Murnane | Henry Kapteyn
Laser Physics | Quantum Information Science & Technology
Laser Cavities and the Quest for the Holy Grail
Published: September 20, 2021

Atomic clocks have been heavily studied by physicists for decades. The way these clocks work is by having atoms, such as rubidium or cesium, that are "ticking" (that is, oscillating) between two quantum states. As such, atomic clocks are extremely precise, but can be fragile to shaking or other perturbations, like temperature fluctuations. Additionally, these clocks need a special laser to probe the clock. Both factors can make atomic clocks imprecise, difficult to study, and expensive to make.
A team of physicists are proposing a new type of laser that could change the future path of atomic clocks. In this team, JILA Fellow Murray Holland and Research Associate Simon Jäger theorized a new type of laser system in a paper recently published in Physical Review Letters. 

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PI(s):
Murray Holland
Laser Physics
From Plane Propellers to Helicopter Rotors
Published: August 30, 2021

For laser science, one major goal is to achieve full control over the spatial, temporal and polarization properties of light, and to learn how to precisely manipulate these properties.  A  property of light is called the Orbital Angular Momentum (OAM), that depends on the spatial distribution of the phase (or crests) of a doughnut-shaped light beam. More recently, a new variant of OAM was discovered - called the spatial-temporal OAM (ST-OAM), with much more elusive properties, since the phase/crests of light evolve both temporally and spatially. In a collaboration led by senior scientist Dr. Chen-Ting Liao, working with graduate student Guan Gui and Nathan Brooks and JILA Fellows Margaret Murnane and Henry Kapteyn, the team explored how such beams change after propagating through nonlinear crystals that can change their color. The team published theri results in Nature Photonics. 

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PI(s):
Margaret Murnane | Henry Kapteyn
Atomic & Molecular Physics | Chemical Physics | Precision Measurement
Overcoming Camera Blur
Published: August 10, 2021

The basic question of how strands of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) fold and hybridize has been studied thoroughly by biophysicists around the globe. In particular, there can be unexpected challenges in obtaining accurate kinetic data when studying the physics of how DNA and RNA fold and unfold at the single molecule level. One problem comes from temporal camera blur, as the cameras used to capture single photons emitted by these molecules do so in a finite time window that can blur the image and thereby skew the kinetics. In a paper published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry B, JILA Fellow David Nesbitt, and first author David Nicholson, propose an extremely simple yet broadly effective way to overcome this camera blur. 

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PI(s):
David Nesbitt
Quantum Information Science & Technology
NIST’s Quantum Crystal Could Be a New Dark Matter Sensor
Published: August 06, 2021

Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have linked together, or “entangled,” the mechanical motion and electronic properties of a tiny blue crystal, giving it a quantum edge in measuring electric fields with record sensitivity that may enhance understanding of the universe.

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PI(s):
Ana Maria Rey
Laser Physics
Reconstructing Laser Pulses
Published: July 19, 2021

Many physicists use lasers to study quantum mechanics, atomic and molecular physics 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.

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PI(s):
Agnieszka Jaron-Becker | Andreas Becker
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 an 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. 

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PI(s):
Andreas Becker