Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics


Department Research Activities:
Atomic, Molecular and Optical (AMO) Physics

Atomic, Molecular and Optical (AMO) physics explores the interactions between atoms, molecules and light. Topics of intellectual emphasis within AMO range from the most fundamental questions in quantum mechanics to the study of emergent phenomena in many-body quantum systems. Rapid advances in the precision and control of spectroscopic techniques have led to numerous breakthroughs including the laser (Nobel Prize 1981), the atomic clock (Nobel Prize 1989), optical cooling (Nobel Prize 1997), and the optical frequency comb (Nobel Prize 2005). Current AMO experiments have demonstrated the most precise measurements of time ever made, achieved the lowest temperatures ever recorded, and attained essentially perfect quantum control over ever-larger assemblies of particles.

Modern AMO physics is also a highly collaborative field, characterized by strong links to other disciplines. Although AMO and condensed matter physics developed as separate fields and remain distinct, over the last 20 years deep connections and cross-fertilization have emerged. For example, as a result of the discovery of Bose-Einstein condensation of atoms (Nobel Prize 2001), AMO experiments have become fertile ground for discovering new phases of matter and exploring complex condensed-matter phenomena. Quantum computing was born in AMO physics (Nobel Prize 2012), and condensed-matter implementations of quantum computers are now poised to transform the way we process information. AMO experiments offer the possibility of deep connections to high-energy theory research as well: historically, it was the measurement of the Lamb shift in atomic hydrogen that heralded the onset of quantum electrodynamics, and modern precision measurement techniques are a major avenue for probing physics beyond the Standard Model.

The experimental AMO group at UCSB uses the full suite of modern tools for quantum control of neutral atoms, ions, and molecules to address a range of research topics, from condensed matter physics to tests of fundamental symmetries. Our group has strong collaborative links with condensed matter experiment and theory efforts at UCSB, and is developing connections with high-energy physics. Research efforts within the UCSB AMO group include:

Andrew Jayich researches fundamental symmetries with highly controlled atoms and molecules in order to better understand the Standard Model and to look for new physics beyond it.  His research interests also include the use of ultracold atoms and molecules to uncover the role of single quantum states in chemical reactions.

David Patterson is extending the tools of atomic, molecular, and optical physics to prepare polyatomic molecules in single quantum states for the first time.  Research interests include the development of quantum information systems, high precision spectroscopy, parity violation in molecular spectra, and single molecule chemical and chiral analysis.  The group also develops novel spectroscopy methods to realize ultraprecise chemical analysis of diverse systems.

David Weld uses the tools of experimental atomic physics to probe the many-body quantum mechanics of condensed matter. Research interests of the Weld group include non-equilibrium quantum dynamics, alkaline earth quantum gases, quasiperiodic quantum systems, quantum emulation of ultrafast phenomena, emergent Floquet phases of matter, new cooling techniques, and quantum metrology.