Research Highlights

  • The Ultramodern Molecule Factory: I. Doublons
    April 20, 2016
    PI(s): Ana Maria Rey, Deborah Jin, Jun Ye
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    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.

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

    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.

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  • Reconstruction
    February 10, 2016
    PI(s): Henry Kapteyn, Margaret Murnane
    Topic(s): Laser Physics

    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).

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  • Creative Adventures in Coupling
    January 28, 2016
    PI(s): Ana Maria Rey, Jun Ye
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics, Quantum Information Science & Technology

    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.

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  • We’ve Looked at Clouds from Both Sides Now
    December 08, 2015
    PI(s): Jeffrey Linsky
    Topic(s): Astrophysics

    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.

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  • Back to the Future: The Ultraviolet Surprise
    December 03, 2015
    PI(s): Agnieszka Jaron-Becker, Andreas Becker, Henry Kapteyn, Margaret Murnane
    Topic(s): Laser Physics

    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.

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  • The Quantum Drum Song
    November 30, 2015
    PI(s): Konrad Lehnert
    Topic(s): Nanoscience, Quantum Information Science & Technology

    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.

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  • Dancing to the Quantum Drum Song
    November 30, 2015
    PI(s): Konrad Lehnert
    Topic(s): Nanoscience, Quantum Information Science & Technology

    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.

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  • A Thousand Splendid Pairs
    November 06, 2015
    PI(s): Ana Maria Rey, Deborah Jin, Jun Ye
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    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.

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  • Natural Born Entanglers
    November 02, 2015
    PI(s): Ana Maria Rey, Cindy Regal
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics, Quantum Information Science & Technology

    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!

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  • Born of Frustration
    October 21, 2015
    PI(s): Ana Maria Rey
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    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.

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  • The Land of Enhancement: AFM Spectroscopy
    October 16, 2015
    PI(s): Thomas Perkins
    Topic(s): Nanoscience

    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.

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  • Turbulence: An Unexpected Journey
    October 16, 2015
    PI(s): Phil Armitage
    Topic(s): Astrophysics

    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.

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  • From BEC to Breathing Forever
    October 05, 2015
    PI(s): Eric Cornell, Heather Lewandowski
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    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.

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  • The Guiding Light
    September 21, 2015
    PI(s): Henry Kapteyn, Margaret Murnane
    Topic(s): Laser Physics

    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.

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  • An Array of Possibilities
    August 19, 2015
    PI(s): Cindy Regal
    Topic(s): Quantum Information Science & Technology

    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.

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  • Interstellar Spaghetti, with Meatballs Inside
    August 16, 2015
    PI(s): Mitch Begelman
    Topic(s): Astrophysics

    When an ordinary star like our Sun wanders very close to a supermassive black hole, it’s very bad news for the star. The immense gravitational pull of the black hole (i.e., tidal forces) overcomes the forces of gravity holding the star together and literally pulls the star apart. Over time, the black hole swallows half of the star stuff, while the other half escapes into the interstellar medium. This destructive encounter between a supermassive black hole and a star is known as a tidal disruption event.

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  • Beautiful & Twisted
    August 14, 2015
    PI(s): Mitch Begelman, Phil Armitage
    Topic(s): Astrophysics

    Ever wondered how magnetic pressure alone might be able to maintain the structure of an accretion disk around a black hole in an x-ray binary system? Fellow Mitch Begelman recently gave the idea a lot of thought. And, in the process of working on the idea with Fellow Phil Armitage and Chris Reynolds of the University of Maryland, Begelman came up with a new model for accretion disks around black holes in x-ray binary systems, such as the one shown in the picture.

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  • Lattice Light and the Chips
    August 10, 2015
    PI(s): Dana Anderson
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    Compact and transportable optical lattices are coming soon to a laboratory near you, thanks to the Anderson group and its spin-off company, ColdQuanta. A new robust on-chip lattice system (which measures 2.3 cm on a side) is now commercially available. The chip comes with a miniature vacuum system, lasers, and mounting platform.

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  • Multitalented Lyman-α
    July 16, 2015
    PI(s): Jeffrey Linsky
    Topic(s): Astrophysics

    For astrophysicists like Fellow Jeff Linsky, the Lyman-α spectral line of atomic hydrogen is a powerful tool for investigating the stellar winds emitted by stars, the deuterium/hydrogen (D/H) ratio in the Galaxy, the excited states of hydrogen molecules and carbon monoxide in the environments around young stars, and photochemical processes that create oxygen in the atmospheres of planets around other stars, or exoplanets.

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  • Custom-Made RNA
    May 11, 2015
    PI(s): David Nesbitt
    Topic(s): Biophysics

    A wildly successful JILA (Nesbitt Group)-NIH collaboration is opening the door to studies of RNA behavior, including binding, folding and other factors that affect structural changes of RNA from living organisms. Such structural changes determine RNA enzymatic functions, including the regulation of genetic information.

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  • Every Generation Needs a New Revolution
    April 30, 2015
    PI(s): Margaret Murnane
    Topic(s): Laser Physics

    For decades after the invention of the red ruby laser in 1960, bright laser-like beams were confined to the infrared, visible, and ultraviolet region of the spectrum. Today there’s an exciting revolution afoot: new coherent x-ray beams are now practical, including the EUV beams gracing the cover of the May 1, 2015, special issue of Science honoring the International Year of Light. The same issue features an article entitled “Beyond Crystallography: Diffractive Imaging Using Coherent X-ray Light Sources” that celebrates the revolutionary advances in both large- and small-scale coherent x-ray sources that are transforming imaging in the 21st century.

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  • About Time
    April 21, 2015
    PI(s): Jun Ye
    Topic(s): Precision Measurement

    The Ye group has just improved the accuracy of the world’s best optical atomic clock by another factor of three and set a new record for clock stability. The accuracy and stability of the improved strontium lattice optical clocks is now about 2 x 10-18, or the equivalent of not varying from perfect time by more than one second in 15 billion years—more than the age of the Universe. Clocks like the Ye Group optical lattice clocks are now so exquisitely precise that they may have outpaced traditional applications for timekeeping such as navigation (GPS) and communications.

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  • A Bug’s Life
    April 20, 2015
    PI(s): Jun Ye
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    The Ye Group recently investigated what first appeared to be a “bug” in an experiment and made an unexpected discovery about a new way to generate high-harmonic light using molecular gases rather than gases of noble atoms. Graduate student Craig Benko and his colleagues in the Ye group were studying the interaction of light from an extreme ultraviolet (XUV) frequency comb with molecules of nitrous oxide, or laughing gas (N2O), when they noticed unusual perturbations in the laser spectrum.

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  • Come Close to Me
    March 23, 2015
    PI(s): Henry Kapteyn, Margaret Murnane
    Topic(s): Nanoscience

    One of the great challenges in the semiconductor and electronics industries is that as nanoscale features get smaller and processes get faster, enormous amounts of heat need to be quickly carried away from the nanostructures. The Kapteyn/Murnane group has made the counter-intuitive discovery that it is easier to cool these nanostructures when they are arranged closely together. The researchers also developed a theory to explain this unexpected new behavior.

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  • Gamma Ray Exposé
    March 11, 2015
    PI(s): Mitch Begelman
    Topic(s): Astrophysics

    Supermassive black holes at the center of active galaxies are known as blazars when they are extremely bright and produce powerful jets of matter and radiation visible along the line of sight to the Earth. Blazars can appear up to a thousand times more luminous than ordinary galaxies, and their associated jets are so powerful they can travel millions of light years across the Universe. Blazar jets produce flares of high-energy gamma rays that are detected by ground- and space-based observatories.

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  • An Ultrafast Photoelectric Adventure
    March 02, 2015
    PI(s): Agnieszka Jaron-Becker, Andreas Becker
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    The photoelectric effect has been well known since the publication of Albert Einstein’s 1905 paper explaining that quantized particles of light can stimulate the emission of electrons from materials. The nature of this quantum mechanical effect is closely related to the question how much time it might take for an electron to leave a material such as a helium atom.

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  • Terms of Entanglement
    February 27, 2015
    PI(s): Deborah Jin
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics, Quantum Information Science & Technology

    When the Rey theory group first modeled a quantum system at JILA, it investigated the interactions of strontium atoms in the Ye group’s strontium-lattice clock. The quantum behavior of these collective interactions was relatively simple to model. However, the group has now successfully tackled some more complicated systems, including the ultracold polar KRb molecule experiment run by the Jin and Ye groups.

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  • Terms of Entanglement
    February 27, 2015
    PI(s): Ana Maria Rey
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics, Quantum Information Science & Technology

    When the Rey theory group first modeled a quantum system at JILA, it investigated the interactions of strontium atoms in the Ye group’s strontium-lattice clock. The quantum behavior of these collective interactions was relatively simple to model. However, the group has now successfully tackled some more complicated systems, including the ultracold polar KRb molecule experiment run by the Jin and Ye groups. In the process, the group has developed a new theory that will open the door to probing quantum spin behavior in real materials; atomic, molecular and optical gases; and other complex systems. The new theory promises important insights in different areas of physics, quantum information science, and biology.

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  • Mutant Chronicles
    January 20, 2015
    PI(s): Ralph Jimenez
    Topic(s): Biophysics

    Because red fluorescent proteins are important tools for cellular imaging, the Jimenez group is working to improve them to further biophysics research. The group’s quest for a better red-fluorescent protein began with a computer simulation of a protein called mCherry that fluoresces red light after laser illumination. The simulation identified a floppy (i.e., less stable) portion of the protein “barrel” enclosing the red-light emitting compound, or chromophore. The thought was that when the barrel flopped open, it would allow oxygen in to degrade the chromophore, thus destroying its ability to fluoresce.

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  • Metamorphosis
    January 07, 2015
    PI(s): Deborah Jin
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    A grand challenge of ultracold physics is figuring out how fermions become bosons. This is an important question because the tiniest quantum particles of matter are all fermions. However, these fermions can form larger chunks of matter, such as atoms and molecules, which can be either fermions or bosons.

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  • The Polarized eXpress
    December 10, 2014
    PI(s): Henry Kapteyn, Margaret Murnane
    Topic(s): Laser Physics

    Until recently, researchers who wanted to understand how magnetic materials work had to reserve time on a large, stadium-sized X-ray machine called a synchrotron. Synchrotrons can produce X-ray beams that can be sculpted very precisely to capture how the spins in magnetic materials work together to give us beautiful and useful magnetic properties – for example to store data in a computer hard drive. But now, thanks to Patrik Grychtol and his colleagues in the Kapteyn/Murnane group, there’s a way to conduct this kind of research in a small university laboratory.

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  • Exciting Adventures in Coupling
    October 31, 2014
    PI(s): Ana Maria Rey
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    New theory describing the spin behavior of ultracold polar molecules is opening the door to explorations of exciting, new physics in JILA’s cold molecular lab, operated by the Jin and Ye groups. According to the Rey theory group and its collaborators, ultracold dipolar molecules can do even more interesting things than swapping spins.

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  • The Quantum Identity Crisis
    October 14, 2014
    PI(s): James Thompson, Murray Holland
    Topic(s): Quantum Information Science & Technology

    Dynamical phase transitions in the quantum world are wildly noisy and chaotic. They don’t look anything like the phase transitions we observe in our everyday world. In Colorado, we see phase transitions caused by temperature changes all the time: snow banks melting in the spring, water boiling on the stove, slick spots on the sidewalk after the first freeze. Quantum phase transitions happen, too, but not because of temperature changes. Instead, they occur as a kind of quantum “metamorphosis” when a system at zero temperature shifts between completely distinct forms.

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  • When You Feast Upon a Star
    August 25, 2014
    PI(s): Phil Armitage
    Topic(s): Astrophysics

    A Be star is a luminous, blue B-type star with distinctive spectral lines that can provide two types of feasts (tasty snacks or full-scale banquets) for a former companion star in a binary system. The feasting begins when the companion star goes supernova and becomes a neutron star or, more rarely, a black hole. Typically, the companion blows up with enough force to kick itself into an eccentric (elliptical) orbit that is misaligned with respect to the Be star’s orbit.

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  • Atoms, Atoms, Frozen Tight in the Crystals of the Light, What Immortal Hand or Eye Could Frame Thy Fearful Symmetry?
    August 18, 2014
    PI(s): Ana Maria Rey, Jun Ye
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    Symmetries described by SU(N) group theory made it possible for physicists in the 1950s to explain how quarks combine to make protons and neutrons and JILA theorists in 2013 to model the behavior of atoms inside a laser. Now, the Ye group has observed a manifestation of SU(N≤10) symmetry in the magnetic behavior of strontium-87 (87Sr) atoms trapped in crystals of light created by intersecting laser beams inside a quantum simulator (originally developed as an optical atomic clock).

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  • Flaws
    August 01, 2014
    PI(s): Markus Raschke
    Topic(s): Nanoscience

    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.

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  • Quantum Entanglement
    July 13, 2014
    PI(s): James Thompson
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    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.

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  • The Little Shop of Atoms
    June 26, 2014
    PI(s): Cindy Regal
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics, Precision Measurement

    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.

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  • Invisible Rulers of Light
    June 22, 2014
    PI(s): Jun Ye
    Topic(s): Laser Physics, Precision Measurement

    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.

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  • Sky Clocks and the World of Tomorrow
    June 13, 2014
    PI(s): Jun Ye
    Topic(s): Precision Measurement

    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. 

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  • The Long and the Short of Soft X-rays
    May 27, 2014
    PI(s): Andreas Becker, Henry Kapteyn, Margaret Murnane
    Topic(s): Laser Physics

    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).

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  • Crowd-Folding
    May 22, 2014
    PI(s): David Nesbitt
    Topic(s): Biophysics

    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.

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  • The SINS of Markus Raschke
    May 07, 2014
    PI(s): Markus Raschke
    Topic(s): Nanoscience

    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.

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  • The Measure of Small Things
    April 23, 2014
    PI(s): Thomas Perkins
    Topic(s): Nanoscience

    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.

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  • The Unfolding Story of Telomerase
    April 17, 2014
    PI(s): David Nesbitt
    Topic(s): Biophysics

    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.

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  • Good Vibrations: The Experiment
    March 19, 2014
    PI(s): Cindy Regal, Konrad Lehnert
    Topic(s): Quantum Information Science & Technology

    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.

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  • The Resonance Motel
    March 13, 2014
    PI(s): John Bohn
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    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.

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  • Dealing with Loss
    March 05, 2014
    PI(s): Ana Maria Rey, Deborah Jin, Jun Ye, Murray Holland
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    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.

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  • Fog Island
    February 26, 2014
    PI(s): Steven Cundiff
    Topic(s): Nanoscience

    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.

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  • bR Phone Home
    February 04, 2014
    PI(s): Markus Raschke, Thomas Perkins
    Topic(s): Biophysics, Nanoscience

    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.

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  • The Flip Side
    February 03, 2014
    PI(s): Mitch Begelman, Phil Armitage
    Topic(s): Astrophysics

    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.

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  • Guess What's Coming to Dinner?
    January 29, 2014
    PI(s): Mitch Begelman
    Topic(s): Astrophysics

    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.

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  • Adventures in Coupling
    January 28, 2014
    PI(s): Steven Cundiff
    Topic(s): Nanoscience

    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.

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  • A Clockwork Blue Takes the Gold
    January 22, 2014
    PI(s): Jun Ye
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    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.

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  • Mission: Control
    January 14, 2014
    PI(s): Henry Kapteyn, Margaret Murnane
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics, Chemical Physics

    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.

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  • Puff the Magic Atoms
    January 13, 2014
    PI(s): Deborah Jin, Eric Cornell
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics

    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.

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  • The Dipolar Express
    December 06, 2013
    PI(s): Eric Cornell, John Bohn, Jun Ye
    Topic(s): Precision Measurement

    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. 

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  • This is the Dawning of the… Age of Entanglement
    October 14, 2013
    PI(s): Konrad Lehnert
    Topic(s): Quantum Information Science & Technology

    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.

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  • The Squeeze Machine
    October 11, 2013
    PI(s): Cindy Regal
    Topic(s): Atomic & Molecular Physics, Precision Measurement

    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.

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