About the Thompson Group

A general theme of our research is breaking quantum limits using collective interactions between laser-cooled atoms and a single mode of an optical cavity.

Superradiance We have demonstrated a supperadiant laser that operates quasi-continuously with as few as 0.2 intracavity photons. The atoms replace the photons as the carrier of phase information. This work challenges our notion of what a laser is, and might lead to the narrowest lasers ever developed with coherence lengths stretching from the earth to the sun.

Spin Squeezing We have broken the Standard Quantum Limit on phase estimation by generating a spin-squeezed state of many atoms. This works explores how to generate entanglement using long range interactions, and may lead to improved quantum sensors and tests of fundamental physics.

Research Areas

  • We laser cool rubidium atoms to microKelvin temperatures and trap them using optical lattices inside of a high finesse cavity.  We exploit the ground hyperfine states of rubidium to encode spin 1/2 states.  The high finesse cavity allows the light to interact with the atoms many times to create strong collective coupling between an ensemble of nearly a million atoms and optical modes of the cavity.

  • Need a brief statement about this research.

  • Need brief description of this research area.

Research Highlights

  • A comparison of two optical cavities, with the left cavity having only localized atoms and no squeezing. In contrast, the right cavity depicts delocalized atoms, squeezing and entanglement.

    A Magic Recipe for a Quantum Interferometer

    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…
    Read More

  • Model of an optical cavity

    BCS: Building a Cavity Superconductor

    The idea of quantum simulation has only become more widely researched in the past few decades. Quantum simulators allow for the study of a quantum system that would be difficult to study easily and quickly in a laboratory or model with…
    Read More

  • Phase transitions in a dynamic system

    Phases on the Move: A Quantum Game of Catch

    The world is out-of-equilibrium, and JILA scientists are trying to learn what rules govern the dynamic systems that make our universe so complex and beautiful, from black holes to our living bodies.


    Read More
  • Thumbnail

    Twisting Atoms to Push Quantum Limits

    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…
    Read More

  • Thumbnail

    A Little Less Spontaneous

    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…
    Read More

  • Thumbnail

    Lassoing Colors with Atomic Cowpokes

    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…
    Read More

  • Thumbnail

    The Quantum Identity Crisis

    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…
    Read More

  • Thumbnail

    Quantum Entanglement

    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…
    Read More

  • Thumbnail

    The Heart of Darkness

    When the Thompson group first demonstrated its innovative “superradiant” laser the team noticed that sometimes the amount of light emitted by the laser would fluctuate…
    Read More

  • Thumbnail

    The Entanglement Tango

    Most scientists think it is really hard to correlate, or entangle, the quantum spin states of many particles in an ultracold gas of fermions. Fermions are particles like electrons (and some atoms and molecules) whose quantum spin states…
    Read More

  • Thumbnail

    The Laser with Perfect Pitch

    The Thompson group, with theory help from the Holland group, recently demonstrated a superradiant laser that escapes the “echo chamber” problem that limits the best lasers. To understand this problem, imagine an opera singer practicing…
    Read More

  • Thumbnail

    Sayonara Demolition Man

    The secret for reducing quantum noise in a precision measurement of spins in a collection of a million atoms is simple: Pre-measure the quantum noise, then subtract it out at the end of the precision measurement. The catch is not to do…
    Read More

Research Highlights

  • A comparison of two optical cavities, with the left cavity having only localized atoms and no squeezing. In contrast, the right cavity depicts delocalized atoms, squeezing and entanglement.

    A Magic Recipe for a Quantum Interferometer

    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…
    Read More

  • Model of an optical cavity

    BCS: Building a Cavity Superconductor

    The idea of quantum simulation has only become more widely researched in the past few decades. Quantum simulators allow for the study of a quantum system that would be difficult to study easily and quickly in a laboratory or model with…
    Read More

  • Phase transitions in a dynamic system

    Phases on the Move: A Quantum Game of Catch

    The world is out-of-equilibrium, and JILA scientists are trying to learn what rules govern the dynamic systems that make our universe so complex and beautiful, from black holes to our living bodies.


    Read More
  • Thumbnail

    Twisting Atoms to Push Quantum Limits

    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…
    Read More

  • Thumbnail

    A Little Less Spontaneous

    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…
    Read More

  • Thumbnail

    Lassoing Colors with Atomic Cowpokes

    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…
    Read More

  • Thumbnail

    The Quantum Identity Crisis

    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…
    Read More

  • Thumbnail

    Quantum Entanglement

    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…
    Read More

  • Thumbnail

    The Heart of Darkness

    When the Thompson group first demonstrated its innovative “superradiant” laser the team noticed that sometimes the amount of light emitted by the laser would fluctuate…
    Read More

  • Thumbnail

    The Entanglement Tango

    Most scientists think it is really hard to correlate, or entangle, the quantum spin states of many particles in an ultracold gas of fermions. Fermions are particles like electrons (and some atoms and molecules) whose quantum spin states…
    Read More

  • Thumbnail

    The Laser with Perfect Pitch

    The Thompson group, with theory help from the Holland group, recently demonstrated a superradiant laser that escapes the “echo chamber” problem that limits the best lasers. To understand this problem, imagine an opera singer practicing…
    Read More

  • Thumbnail

    Sayonara Demolition Man

    The secret for reducing quantum noise in a precision measurement of spins in a collection of a million atoms is simple: Pre-measure the quantum noise, then subtract it out at the end of the precision measurement. The catch is not to do…
    Read More

In the Spotlight

Photo of Ran Brynn Reiff, Julia Cline, and Tyler McMaken
December 30, 2020: Tyler McMaken, Ran Brynn Reiff, and Julia Cline all win 2020 CU Physics awards

JILA graduate students Tyler McMaken, Ran Brynn Reiff, and Julia Cline all win the 2020 CU Physics Department TA awards 


Read More
JILA building
August 26, 2020: New $115 Million Quantum Systems Accelerator to Pioneer Quantum Technologies for Discovery Science

A new national quantum research center draws on JILA Fellows' and their expertise to make the United States an international leader in quantum technology.


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Thumbnail
October 03, 2018: Three JILA Fellows named 2018 APS Fellows

Three JILA Fellows have been named 2018 Fellows of the American Physical Society. The three new Fellows—Andreas Becker, Heather J. Lewandowski, and James K. Thompson—were nominated from varying divisions of APS. Andreas Becker was nominated by the APS Division of Atomic, Molecular & Optical physics for his contributions to the understanding of the behavior of atoms and molecules in intense light fields, including seminal theoretical studies of attosecond dynamics, photoionization, complex electron dynamics in simple systems such as H2, and a better understanding of high-harmonic generation.


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JILA Graduate Students Julia Cline and William Cairncross.
June 04, 2018: Cline and Cairncross win GPMFC Poster Competition

JILA Graduate Students Julia Cline and William Cairncross swept the student poster awards at DAMOP 2018. The Topical Group on Precision Measurement and Fundamental Constants (GPMFC) hosts a student poster competition at the annual meeting for Division for Atomic, Molecular & Optical Physics (DAMOP).


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JILA Address

We are located at JILA: A joint institute of NIST and the University of Colorado Boulder.

Map | JILA Phone: 303-492-7789 | Address: 440 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309