Research Overview

Jun Ye on stairs photo.

Quantum science and precision metrology — quantum matter probed with novel light source

Our research group explores the frontier of light-matter interactions. Precisely controlled lasers enable our communications with microscopically engineered quantum systems of atoms and molecules. By preparing matter in specific quantum states, and using probe light with the longest coherence time and precisely controlled waveform, we strive to make fundamental scientific discoveries and develop new enabling technologies.

The strongly integrated development of scientific vision and experimental tools has enabled us to advance important topics in precision measurement, quantum many-body physics, quantum metrology, ultrafast science, and quantum science in general. For example, we employ quantum gas of strontium atoms confined in optical lattices to achieve best performing atomic clocks and investigate novel quantum dynamics, combining quantum metrology and quantum simulation. We prepare molecules in quantum degenerate gases to engineer tunable Hamiltonians for correlated quantum phenomena. These quantum-state prepared molecules are also explored for test of fundamental physics and study of quantum chemistry. Stable lasers and optical frequency combs are extending precision spectroscopy and extreme nonlinear optics from mid infrared to extreme ultraviolet, providing novel probes for large quantum systems, trace detection for health and environment, and new spectroscopy opportunities for nuclear transitions.

Research Areas

  • Our group explores many facets of ultracold strontium (Sr), emphasizing precision measurement and quantum state engineering and manipulation of atomic states. The group has achieved exquisite technical control via precision stabilization of lasers and the realization of ultracold atoms in optical lattices. Early on, we focused on precision measurements of Sr electronic transitions, which occur at optical frequencies, to explore the possibility of developing an optical atomic clock.

  • Since 1999 and 2000, there has been a remarkable convergence of the fields of ultrafast optics, opti cal frequency metrology, and precision laser spectroscopy — a convergence that our lab was privileged to help facilitate. A remarkable transformation took place in these fields as unprecedented advances occurred in the control of optical phases ranging from the ultrashort (femtoseconds) to laboratory time scales (seconds). Today, a single-frequency continuous optical field can achieve a phase coherence time exceeding 1 s. This phase coherence can be precisely transferred to the electric waveform of an ultrafast pulse train!

  • Molecules cooled to ultralow temperatures provide fundamental new insights to molecular interaction dynamics in the quantum regime. In recent years, researchers from various scientific disciplines such as atomic, optical, and condensed matter physics, physical chemistry, and quantum science have started working together to explore many emergent research topics related to cold molecules, including cold chemistry, strongly correlated quantum systems, novel quantum phases, and precision measurement. The exceedingly low energy regimes for ultracold molecules represent a new playground for chemical physics where quantum behaviors play a dominant role in molecular interaction and dynamics. Unique and complex molecular energy structure provides new opportunities for sensitive probe of fundamental physics. The anisotropic and long-range dipolar interactions add new ingredients to strongly correlated and collective quantum dynamics in many-body systems.