Research Highlights

  • Bringing quanta out of the cold
    August 12, 2019
    PI(s): Markus Raschke
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    An advance from the Raschke group could free quantum technology from ultra-cold temperatures.

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  • Dancing through dynamical phase transitions in an out-of-equilibrium state
    August 02, 2019
    PI(s): Ana Maria Rey
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics, Quantum Information Science & Technology

    Using Feshbach resonance, physicists have found that they can control a dynamical phase transition in an out-of-equilibrium state. 

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  • Keep it steady
    July 29, 2019
    PI(s): Jun Ye
    Topic(s): Precision Measurement

    It's hard to read a clock with hands that wobble. The Ye Group has found a way to steady their optical atomic clock using a new cavity. 

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  • Black Holes Continue to Tear Stars Apart
    July 23, 2019
    PI(s): Ann-Marie Madigan
    Topic(s): Astrophysics

    While we've known for a while that black holes could rip stars apart, we don’t know why these events occur so frequently. Now, a model by JILA researchers explaining this discrepancy is shown to be promising after passing its first reality test.

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  • DNA imaging, ready in five minutes
    July 16, 2019
    PI(s): Thomas Perkins
    Topic(s): Biophysics, Precision Measurement

    It's tough to get tightly-wound balls of DNA to lay down flat and straighten out to get their picture taken. A new technique from the Perkins group gets a crisp, clear picture in just five minutes.

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  • The Fastest Vortex in the West
    June 26, 2019
    PI(s): Margaret Murnane
    Topic(s): Laser Physics

    Researchers at JILA and the University of Salamanca have found a new property of light, one that creates a whirling vortex that can speed itself up. 

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  • Tying Quantum Knots with an Optical Clock
    May 22, 2019
    PI(s): Ana Maria Rey
    Topic(s): Quantum Information Science & Technology

    Getting a cluster state of perfectly entangled atoms for quantum computing may be easier using a tool in JILA's laboratory.

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  • Chaos reigns in a quantum ion magnet
    April 29, 2019
    PI(s): Ana Maria Rey
    Topic(s): Quantum Information Science & Technology

    JILA researchers have proposed an experiment that would allow them to study rapid scrambling of quantum information, similar to what happens at the event horizon of a black hole. 

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  • Optical tweezers achieve new feats of capturing atoms
    April 04, 2019
    PI(s): Cindy Regal
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    Trapping single atoms is a bit like herding cats, which makes researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder expert feline wranglers. In a new study, a team led by physicist Cindy Regal showed that it could load groups of individual atoms into large grids with an efficiency unmatched by existing methods.  

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  • The Snowflake of Insulators
    March 01, 2019
    PI(s): Margaret Murnane, Henry Kapteyn
    Topic(s): Laser Physics

    By using ultrafast lasers to measure the temperature of electrons, JILA researchers have discovered a never-before-seen state in an otherwise standard semiconductor. This research is the most recent demonstration of a new technique, called ultrafast electron calorimetry, which uses light to manipulate well-known materials in new ways.

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  • Pulling apart HIV
    February 27, 2019
    PI(s): Thomas Perkins
    Topic(s): Biophysics

    JILA researchers have demonstrated a much easier, faster and more precise way to understand the structure and function of the HIV RNA molecule, especially the HIV RNA hairpin. Furthermore, the techniques developed for this research promise to allow a wider range of users to study similar biological molecules, as they are built upon commercially available and user-friendly atomic force microscopes, or AFMs.

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  • Buckyballs Play by Quantum Rules
    February 22, 2019
    PI(s): Jun Ye
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    When the Ye group measured the total quantum state of buckyballs, we learned that this large molecule can play by full quantum rules. Specifically, this measurement resolved the rotational states of the buckyball, making it the largest and most complex molecule to be understood at this level.

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  • The Strontium Optical Tweezer
    January 25, 2019
    PI(s): Adam Kaufman
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    JILA researchers have, for the first time, trapped a single alkaline-earth atom and cooled it to its ground state. To trap this atom, researchers used an optical tweezer, which is a laser focused to a pinpoint that can hold, move and manipulate atoms. The full motional and electronic control wielded by this tool enables microscopically precise studies of the limiting factors in many of today’s forefront physics experiments, especially quantum information science and metrology. 

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  • The First Quantum Degenerate Polar Molecules
    January 18, 2019
    PI(s): Jun Ye
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    Understanding chemistry requires understanding both molecules and quantum physics. The former defines the start and end of chemical reactions, the latter dictates the dynamics in between. JILA researchers now have a better understanding of both.

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  • Taming Chemistry at the Quantum Level
    October 04, 2018
    PI(s): Heather Lewandowski
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    In the vast stretches between solar systems, heat does not flow and sound does not exist. Action seems to stop, but only if you don’t look long enough. Violent and chaotic actions occur in the long stretches of outer space. These chemical reactions between radicals and ions are the same reactions underlying the burn of a flame and floating the ozone above our planet. But they’re easy to miss in outer space because they’re very rare.

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  • Quiet Drumming: Reducing Noise for the Quantum Internet
    September 24, 2018
    PI(s): Cindy Regal, Graeme Smith, Konrad Lehnert
    Topic(s): Quantum Information Science & Technology

    Quantum computers are set to revolutionize society. With their expansive power and speed, quantum computers could reduce today’s impossibly complex problems, like artificial intelligence and weather forecasts, to mere algorithms. But as revolutionary as the quantum computer will be, its promises will be stifled without the right connections. Peter Burns, a JILA graduate student in the Lehnert/Regal lab, likens this stifle to a world without Wi-Fi.  

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  • Turn it Up to 11 – The XUV Comb
    September 04, 2018
    PI(s): Jun Ye
    Topic(s): Laser Physics

    With the advent of the laser, the fuzzy bands glowing from atoms transformed into narrow lines of distinct color. These spectral lines became guiding beacons visible from the quantum frontier. More than a half century later, we stand at the next frontier. The elegant physics that will decode today’s mysteries (such as dark matter, dark energy, and the stability of our fundamental constants, to name a few) is still shrouded in shadows. But a new tool promises illumination. 

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  • Twisting Atoms to Push Quantum Limits
    August 13, 2018
    PI(s): Ana Maria Rey, James Thompson
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics, Precision Measurement, Quantum Information Science & Technology

    The chaos within a black hole scrambles information. Gravity tugs on time in tiny, discrete steps. A phantom-like presence pervades our universe, yet evades detection. These intangible phenomena may seem like mere conjectures of science fiction, but in reality, experimental comprehension is not far, in neither time nor space. Astronomical advances in quantum simulators and quantum sensors will likely be made within the decade, and the leading experiments for black holes, gravitons, and dark matter will be not in space, but in basements – sitting on tables, in a black room lit only by lasers.

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  • A Collaborative Mastery of X-rays
    July 18, 2018
    PI(s): Andreas Becker, Agnieszka Jaron-Becker, Henry Kapteyn, Margaret Murnane
    Topic(s): Laser Physics

    The hardest problems are never solved by one person. They are solved by teams; or in the case of science, collaborations. It took a collaboration of 17 researchers, including four JILA fellows and another six JILA affiliates, just a little over five years to achieve robust polarization control over isolated attosecond (one billionth of a billionth of a second) pulses of extreme-ultraviolet light. 

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  • A Little Less Spontaneous
    June 29, 2018
    PI(s): James Thompson, Murray Holland
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    A large fraction of JILA research relies on laser cooling of atoms, ions and molecules for applications as diverse as world-leading atomic clocks, human-controlled chemistry, quantum information, new forms of ultracold matter and the search for new details of the origins of the universe. JILAns use laser cooling every day in their research, and have mastered arcane details of the process.

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  • An Electron Faucet
    June 28, 2018
    PI(s): David Nesbitt
    Topic(s): Chemical Physics

    JILA researchers have created a laser-controlled "electron faucet", which emits a stable stream of low-energy electrons. These faucets have many applications for ultrafast switches and ultrafast electron imaging. The electron faucet starts with gold, spherical nanoshells. “They are glass cores with a thin, gold layer over them,” said Jacob Pettine, the graduate student on the project. These nanoshells are truly on the nanoscale, measuring less than 150 nanometers in diameter, which is “something like a thousandth of the size of a human hair,” said Pettine.

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  • Shake it Till You Make it
    June 27, 2018
    PI(s): Dana Anderson
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    “Well, this isn’t going to work.” That was recent JILA graduate Carrie Weidner’s first thought when her advisor, JILA Fellow Dana Anderson, proposed the difficult experiment: to build an interferometer unlike any before – an interferometer of shaking atoms. But the grit paid off, as this compact and robust interferometer outperforms all others in filtering and distinguishing signal direction. While the designs of most atom interferometers are symmetric and elegant, Weidner says the shaken-lattice experiment proposed by Anderson “is more like broken eggs.”

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  • The World's Coldest Transistor
    April 09, 2018
    PI(s): Dana Anderson
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics, Precision Measurement

    JILA Fellow Dana Z. Anderson, JILA visiting scientist Alex Zozulya, and a colleague from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute postulate that the ultracold coherent atoms in a Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC) could be configured to act like electrons in a transistor. An “atom transistor” would exhibit absolute and differential gain, as well as allow for the movement of single atoms to be resolved in a precision scientific measurement.

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  • Same Clock. New Perspective.
    March 26, 2018
    PI(s): Jun Ye
    Topic(s): Precision Measurement

    We all know what a tenth of a second feels like. It’s a jiffy, a snap of the fingers, or a camera shutter click. But what does 14 billion years–the age of the universe–feel like? JILA’s atomic clock has the precision to measure the age of the universe to within a tenth of a second. That sort of precision is difficult to intuit. Yet, JILA’s atomic clock, which is the most precise clock in the world, continues to improve its precision. The latest jump in precision, of nearly 50 percent, came about from a new perspective.

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  • How a Dust Bunny Becomes a Planet
    February 23, 2018
    PI(s): Phil Armitage
    Topic(s): Astrophysics

    Jupiter is large enough to fit 1,300 Earths inside, and still have room. But like all planets, Jupiter was once nothing more than a cosmic dust bunny. A team of physicists at JILA and the University of Arizona, led by JILA Senior Research Associate Jake Simon, are studying how cosmic pebbles­­—­starting only a millimeter in size—can lead to the formation of planetesimals, the football-field-to-Delaware-sized primordial asteroids whose development defined our solar system’s architecture.

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  • Brightening the Dark State
    February 08, 2018
    PI(s): Markus Raschke
    Topic(s): Nanoscience

    Researchers from the Raschke group are lighting up dark excitons. Specifically, the Raschke group developed a method to observe dark excitons in a 2D (i.e., a single layer of atoms) semiconductor at room temperature. This observation is an exciting development in the story of dark exciton applications, which includes quantum information processing and fundamental studies of complex semiconductor materials.

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  • How Magnetism Melts Away
    February 03, 2018
    PI(s): Henry Kapteyn, Margaret Murnane
    Topic(s): Laser Physics

    Magnets hold cards to your fridge, and store data in your computer. They can power speakers, and produce detailed medical images. And yet, despite millennia of use, and centuries of study, magnetism is still far from fully understood.

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  • The Energetic Adolescence of Carbon Dioxide
    January 12, 2018
    PI(s): Jun Ye
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    The reaction, at first glance, seems simple. Combustion engines, such as those in your car, form carbon monoxide (CO). Sunlight converts atmospheric water into a highly reactive hydroxyl radical (OH). And when CO and OH meet, one byproduct is carbon dioxide (CO2) ­– a main contributor to air pollution and climate change.

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  • Molecule Movies, Now Filming at NIST
    November 03, 2017
    PI(s): Ralph Jimenez
    Topic(s): Biophysics

    The actors are molecules. The plot, broken molecular bonds. JILA Fellow Ralph Jimenez and a team of detector experts at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are working together to make X-ray movies of a molecular drama. The team at NIST built a microcalorimeter X-ray spectrometer capable of performing time-resolved spectroscopy; in other words: a camera to film molecules. They use this camera to learn how molecules break their bonds – do the ­electrons rearrange, do the other atoms quake?

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  • And, The Answer Is . . . Still Round
    October 09, 2017
    PI(s): Eric Cornell, Jun Ye
    Topic(s): Precision Measurement

    Why are we here? This is an age-old philosophical question. However, physicists like Will Cairncross, Dan Gresh and their advisors Eric Cornell and Jun Ye actually want to figure out out why people like us exist at all. If there had been the same amount of matter and antimatter created in the Big Bang, the future of stars, galaxies, our Solar System, and life would have disappeared in a flash of light as matter and antimatter recombined.

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  • It’s Triplets!
    October 05, 2017
    PI(s): Eric Cornell, Deborah Jin
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    Newly minted JILA Ph.D. Catherine Klauss and her colleagues in the Jin and Cornell group decided to see what would happen to a Bose-Einstein condensate of Rubidium-85 (85Rb) atoms if they suddenly threw the whole experiment wildly out of equilibrium by quickly lowering the magnetic field through a Feshbach resonance.

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  • The Clock that Changed the World
    October 05, 2017
    PI(s): Jun Ye
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics, Precision Measurement

    Imagine A Future . . . The International Moon Station team is busy on the Moon’s surface using sensitive detectors of gravity and magnetic and electric fields looking for underground water-rich materials, iron-containing ores, and other raw materials required for building a year-round Moon station. The station’s mission: launching colonists and supplies to Mars for colonization. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Americans are under simultaneous assault by three Category 5 hurricanes, one in the Gulf of Mexico and two others threatening the Caribbean islands. Hundreds of people are stranded in the rising waters, but thanks precision cell-phone location services and robust cell-tower connections in high wind, their rescuers are able to accurately pinpoint their locations and send help immediately.

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  • A New Quantum Drum Refrain
    September 18, 2017
    PI(s): Konrad Lehnert
    Topic(s): Nanoscience, Quantum Information Science & Technology

    Quantum computers require systems that can encode, manipulate, and transmit quantum bits, or qubits. A creative way to accomplish all this was recently demonstrated by Adam Reed and his colleagues in the Lehnert group. The researchers converted propagating qubits (encoded as superpositions1 of zero and one microwave photons) into the motion of a tiny aluminum drum. The successful conversion is considered a key step in using a mechanical drum to (1) transfer quantum information between microwave and optical frequencies or (2) store quantum information inside a quantum computer.

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  • Quantum Adventures with Cold Molecules
    September 07, 2017
    PI(s): Ana Maria Rey, John Bohn, Jun Ye
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    Researchers at JILA and around the world are starting a grand adventure of precisely controlling the internal and external quantum states of ultracold molecules after years of intense experimental and theoretical study. Such control of small molecules, which are the most complex quantum systems that can currently be completely understood from the principles of quantum mechanics, will allow researchers to probe the quantum interactions of individual molecules with other molecules, investigate what happens to molecules during collisions, and study how molecules behave in chemical reactions. 

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  • E.T. Phone Home
    August 29, 2017
    PI(s): Graeme Smith
    Topic(s): Quantum Information Science & Technology

    When Steven Spielberg’s adorable extra-terrestrial, E. T., wanted to phone home, he should have contacted an information theorist like JILA’s Graeme Smith. Smith could have at least explained how E. T. could have used a cell phone to send a low-noise message to a cell phone tower,1 and from there––well to outer space (which is a problem that's much, much harder to solve than cell phone to cell phone tower transmissions).

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  • Something New Under the Sun
    August 07, 2017
    PI(s):
    Topic(s): Astrophysics

    The Sun isn’t working the way we thought it did. Many astrophysicists haven't actually understood one aspect of how the Sun worked––until former senior research associate Nick Featherstone and senior research associate Brad Hindman set the record straight.

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  • Precision Biomechanics
    July 21, 2017
    PI(s): Thomas Perkins
    Topic(s): Biophysics

    The Perkins group has made dramatic advances in the use of Atomic Force Microscopes (AFMs) to study large single biomolecules, such as proteins and nucleic acids (DNA, RNA), that are important for life. After previously improving AFM measurements of biomolecules by orders of magnitude for stability, sensitivity and time response, the Perkins group has now developed ways to make these precision biomechanical measurements up to 100 times faster than previously possible––obtaining useful information in hours to days rather than weeks to months. 

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  • Lassoing Colors with Atomic Cowpokes
    July 10, 2017
    PI(s): James Thompson
    Topic(s): Laser Physics

    Getting lasers to have a precise single frequency (color) can be trickier than herding cats. So it’s no small accomplishment that the Thompson group has figured out how to use magnetic fields to create atomic cowpokes to wrangle a specific single color into place so that it doesn’t wander hither and yon. The researchers do this with a magnetic field that causes strontium atoms in an optical cavity to stop absorbing light and become transparent to laser light at one specific color. What happens is that the magnetic field creates a transparent window that serves as a gate to let only light of a single frequency pass through.

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  • The Electron Stops When The Bands Play On
    June 20, 2017
    PI(s): Henry Kapteyn, Margaret Murnane
    Topic(s): Laser Physics, Nanoscience

    The Kapteyn-Murnane group has come up with a novel way to use fast bursts of extreme ultraviolet light to capture how strongly electrons interact with each other in materials. This research is important for figuring out how quickly materials can change their state from insulating to conducting, or from magnetic to nonmagnetic. In the future such fast switching may lead to faster and more efficient nanoelectronics.

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  • The Ties That Bind
    May 22, 2017
    PI(s): Ana Maria Rey
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    JILA and NIST scientists are hot on the trail of understanding quantum correlations (or entanglement) among groups of quantum particles such as atoms or ions. Such particles are the building blocks of larger and larger chunks of matter that make up the everyday world. Interestingly, correlated atoms and ions exhibit exotic behaviors and accomplish tasks that are impossible for noninteracting particles. Therefore, understanding how entanglement is generated in those systems is not only central to comprehending our world, but also advancing technology.

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  • The Chameleon Interferometer
    April 21, 2017
    PI(s): Cindy Regal, Konrad Lehnert
    Topic(s): Precision Measurement

    The Regal group recently met the challenge of measurements in an extreme situation with a device called an interferometer. The researchers succeeded by using creative alterations to the device itself and quantum correlations. Quantum correlations are unique, and often counterintuitive, quantum mechanical interactions that occur among quantum objects such as photons and atoms. The group exploited these interactions in the way they set up their interferometer, and improved its ability to measure tiny motions using photons (particles of light).

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  • The Hunt Is On For The Axion
    March 30, 2017
    PI(s): Konrad Lehnert
    Topic(s): Precision Measurement

    The first results are in from a new search for the axion, a hypothetical particle that may constitute dark matter. Researchers in the Haloscope At Yale Sensitive to Axion Cold Dark Matter (HAYSTAC) recently looked for evidence of the axion, but so far they have found none in the small 100 MHz frequency range between 5.7 and 5.8 GHz.

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  • The Sharpest Images
    March 20, 2017
    PI(s): Henry Kapteyn, Margaret Murnane
    Topic(s): Laser Physics, Nanoscience

    Dennis Gardner and his coworkers in the Kapteyn-Murnane group accomplished two major breakthroughs in imaging tiny structures much too small to be seen with visible light microscopes: (1) for the first time in the extreme ultraviolet (EUV) or soft X-ray region, they achieved a resolution smaller than the wavelength of the light; and (2) for the first time, they obtained high resolution quantitative imaging of near periodic tiny objects (structures with repetitive features).

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  • The Fast and the Furious
    March 03, 2017
    PI(s): Mitch Begelman
    Topic(s): Astrophysics

    The lovely Crab Nebula was created by a supernova and its spinning-neutron-star remnant known as a pulsar. Pulsar wind nebulae, such as the Crab, shine because they contain plasmas of charged particles, such as electrons and positrons, traveling at near the speed of light. A key question in astrophysics has long been: What process accelerates some of the charged particles in plasmas to energies much higher than the average particle energy, giving them near light speeds?

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  • Vision Quest
    March 02, 2017
    PI(s): Thomas Perkins
    Topic(s): Biophysics

    The Perkins group continues to extend the performance of its unique Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) technology, revealing for the first time a dozen new short-lived intermediate states in the folding and unfolding of a membrane protein that controls the exchange of chemicals and ions into and out of living cells. Measuring the energetics and dynamics of membrane proteins is crucial to understanding normal physiology and disease, and the Perkins group’s observation of multiple new folding/unfolding states shines new light on these cellular “gatekeepers.”

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  • Quantum Leaps
    December 21, 2016
    PI(s): Ana Maria Rey, Jun Ye
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics, Precision Measurement

    In the Ye group’s new quantum simulation experiment, cold strontium atoms, which are analogs of electrons, are allowed to tunnel between the pancakes that confine the atoms with laser light. Because the atoms moving in an array of pancakes are analogs of electrons moving in solids, such studies are expected to shed light on the complex physics of metals and other solids. Credit:  The Ye group and Steve Burrows, JILA

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  • Molecules at the Quantum Frontier
    December 19, 2016
    PI(s): Deborah Jin, Jun Ye
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    Deborah Jin, Jun Ye, and their students wrote a review during the summer of 2016 for Nature Physics highlighting the accomplishments and future directions of the relatively new field of ultracold-molecule research. The field was pioneered by the group’s creation of the world’s first gas of ultracold potassium-rubidium (KRb) molecules in 2008.

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  • Star Model
    December 13, 2016
    PI(s): Jeffrey Linsky
    Topic(s): Astrophysics

    Astrophysicist Jeff Linsky and his colleagues recently created a sophisticated mathematical model of the outer atmosphere of the small M-dwarf star called GJ832. The new model fits well with spectral observations of the star made with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). This accomplishment bodes well for two reasons: First, it provides a tool for better understanding M-dwarf stars––the most common type of star in our galaxy.

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  • The Beautiful Ballet of Quantum Baseball
    December 12, 2016
    PI(s): Ana Maria Rey
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics, Quantum Information Science & Technology

    The Rey and Ye groups discovered the strange rules of quantum baseball earlier this year. But now, quantum baseball games happen faster, and players (dipolar particles) are no longer free to move or stand wherever they want. Players must not only be stronger to jump and catch the balls (photons), but also more organized. At the same time, they must be good spinners. And, only a small amount of disorder is tolerated! The fast spinning of the players and their fixed positions have made quantum baseball a whole new game!

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  • Dancing with the Stars
    November 22, 2016
    PI(s): Mitch Begelman, Phil Armitage
    Topic(s): Astrophysics

    Galaxy mergers routinely occur in our Universe. And, when they take place, it takes years for the supermassive black holes at their centers to merge into a new, bigger supermassive black hole. However, a very interesting thing can happen when two black holes get close enough to orbit each other every 3–4 months, something that happens just before the two black holes begin their final desperate plunge into each other. 

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  • Recreating Fuels from Waste Gas
    November 21, 2016
    PI(s): J. Mathias Weber
    Topic(s): Chemical Physics

    Graduate student Mike Thompson of the Weber group wants to understand the basic science of taking carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by burning fossil fuels and converting it back into useful fuels. People could then use these fuels to generate electricity, heat homes and office buildings, power automobiles and trains, fly airplanes, and drive the industrial processes of modern life.

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  • Going Viral: The Source of a Spin-Flip Epidemic
    November 11, 2016
    PI(s): Ana Maria Rey
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    For a long time, there’s been a mystery concerning how tiny interactions between individual atoms could lead to really big changes in a whole cloud of independent-minded particles. The reason this behavior is mysterious is that the atoms interact weakly, and only when they are very close to each other. Yet, the atoms clear across the cloud seem to know when it’s time to participate in some big-deal quantum behavior such as simultaneously all changing the direction of their spins.

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  • The Red Light District
    October 31, 2016
    PI(s): Ralph Jimenez
    Topic(s): Biophysics

    Far-red fluorescent light emitted from proteins could one day illuminate the inner workings of life. But before that happens, scientists like Fellow Ralph Jimenez must figure out how fluorescent proteins’ light-emitting structures work. As part of this effort, Jimenez wants to answer a simple question: How do we design red fluorescent proteins to emit longer-wavelength, or redder, light?

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  • The Radical Comb-Over
    October 27, 2016
    PI(s): Jun Ye
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics, Chemical Physics, Laser Physics

    Using frequency comb spectroscopy, the Ye group has directly observed transient intermediate steps in a chemical reaction that plays a key role in combustion, atmospheric chemistry, and chemistry in the interstellar medium. The group was able to make this first-ever measurement because frequency combs generate a wide range of laser wavelengths in ultrafast pulses. These pulses made it possible for the researchers to “see” every step in the chemical reaction of OH + CO → HOCO → CO2 + H.

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  • A Quantum Metal Model System
    September 26, 2016
    PI(s): Ana Maria Rey
    Topic(s): Laser Physics

    Exciting new theory from the Rey group reveals the profound effects of electron interactions on the flow of electric currents in metals. Controlling currents of strongly interacting electrons is critical to the development of tomorrow’s advanced microelectronics systems, including spintronics devices that will process data faster, use less power than today’s technology, and operate in conditions where quantum effects predominate.

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  • The Ultimate Radar Detector
    September 26, 2016
    PI(s): David Nesbitt
    Topic(s): Chemical Physics

    The Nesbitt group has invented a nifty technique for exploring the physics and chemistry of a gas interacting with molecules on the surface of a liquid. The group originally envisioned the technique because it’s impossible to overestimate the importance of understanding surface chemistry. For instance, ozone depletion in the atmosphere occurs because of chemical reactions of hydrochloric acid on the surface of ice crystals and aerosols in the upper atmosphere. Interstellar chemistry takes place on the surface of tiny grains of dust.

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  • Black Holes Can Have Their Stars and Eat Them Too
    August 11, 2016
    PI(s): Mitch Begelman
    Topic(s): Astrophysics

    Fellow Mitch Begelman’s new theory says it’s possible to form stars while a supermassive black hole consumes massive amounts of stellar debris and other interstellar matter. What’s more, there’s evidence that this is exactly what happened around the black hole at the center of the Milky Way some 4–6 million years ago, according to Associate Fellow Ann-Marie Madigan.

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  • Black Hole Marvels
    August 11, 2016
    PI(s): Mitch Begelman, Phil Armitage
    Topic(s): Astrophysics

    Graduate student Greg Salvesen, JILA Collaborator Jake Simon (Southwest Research Institute), and Fellows Phil Armitage and Mitch Begelman decided they wanted to figure out why swirling disks of gas (accretion disks) around black holes often appear strongly magnetized. They also wanted to figure out the mechanism that allowed this magnetization to persist over time.

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  • Modeling Lessons
    July 28, 2016
    PI(s): Heather Lewandowski
    Topic(s): Other

    Physics education researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Maine recently showed that students troubleshooting a malfunctioning electric circuit successfully tackled the problem by using models of how the circuit ought to work. The researchers confirmed this approach by analyzing videotapes of eight pairs of students talking aloud about their efforts to diagnose and repair a malfunctioning electric circuit. The circuits had not just one, but two problems. Both problems had to be corrected for the circuit to work properly.

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  • All Dressed Up and Ready to Probe
    July 28, 2016
    PI(s): Deborah Jin, Eric Cornell
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    Newly minted Ph.D. Ming-Guang Hu and his colleagues in the Jin and Cornell groups recently investigated immersing an impurity in a quantum bath consisting of a Bose-Einstein condensate, or BEC. The researchers expected the strong impurity-boson interactions to “dress” the impurity, i.e., cause it to get bigger and heavier. In the experiment, dressing the impurity resulted in it becoming a quasi particle called a Bose polaron.

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