Precision Measurement

Precision-measurement tools help scientists understand the universe, often through ground-breaking discoveries.

JILA physicists are at the forefront of efforts to invent and redefine tools for precision measurement. The tools developed at JILA are capable of probing tiny structures inside living cells, monitor the dynamics of chemical reactions, and directly measure the frequency of visible light. 

Historically, precision measurements at JILA helped pave the way for redefining the speed the light, defining the gravitational constant, and develop a universal constant time-keeping system. Current research into precision measurements at JILA could redefine the standard model of physics, realize the quantization of gravity, detect the astronomical collisions of black holes, search for evidence of dark matter, and even evolve our understanding of DNA and proteins, and the subsequent diseases that develop from their misfoldings.

Researchers in Precision Measurement

Photograph of Dana Anderson Dana Z. Anderson
Focus: Quantum Sensors, Precision Measurement Role: Experimentalist
Photograph of Eric Cornell. Eric Cornell
Focus: BEC, Precision Measurement, Molecules, Frequency Combs Role: Experimentalist
Photograph of Murray Holland Murray Holland
Focus: Quantum Optics, Cold Atoms Role: Theorist
Photograph of Konrad Lehnert. Konrad Lehnert
Focus: Quantum Nanomechanics, Microwave Quantum Optics, Mesoscopic Physics Role: Experimentalist
Photograph of Judah Levine Judah Levine
Focus: Methods for distributing precise time and frequency information Role: Experimentalist
Photograph of Ana Maria Rey Ana Maria Rey
Focus: Cold Atoms and Molecules, Quantum Many-body Systems, Precision Measurement, Quantum Information Role: Theorist
Photograph of James Thompson James Thompson
Focus: Cold Atoms, Quantum Optics and Information, Precision Measurement Role: Experimentalist
Photograph of Jun Ye Jun Ye
Focus: Cold Atoms and Molecules, Frequency Combs, Ultrastable Lasers, Precision Measurement Role: Experimentalist

Recent Highlights in Precision Measurement

One of the biggest challenges in quantum technology and quantum sensing is “noise”–seemingly random environmental disturbances that can disrupt the delicate quantum states of qubits, the fundamental units of quantum information. Looking deeper at this issue, JILA Associate Fellow and University of Colorado Boulder Physics assistant professor…

In daily life, when two objects are “indistinguishable,” it’s due to an imperfect state of knowledge. As a street magician scrambles the cups and balls, you could, in principle, keep track of which ball is which as they are passed between the cups. However, at the smallest scales in nature, even the magician cannot tell one ball from another.…

Precisely measuring the energy states of individual atoms has been a historical challenge for physicists due to atomic recoil. When an atom interacts with a photon, the atom “recoils” in the opposite direction, making it difficult to measure the position and momentum of the atom precisely. This recoil can have big implications for quantum…