Technical Activities

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"Technical Activities 2001" - Table of Contents Division home page

Quantum Physics Division

Division Overview  |  Program Directions   |   Major Technical Highlights

Program Directions

  • Degenerate Bose-Einstein and Fermi-Dirac Gases. The Division remains committed to exploring and exploiting the ultimate limits in low-temperature gases. The two basic species of atoms, fermions and bosons, behave very differently at ultra-low temperatures. Each offers opportunities in precision sensing and metrology, and in each case the effects of quantum mechanics, ordinarily masked by random thermal behavior, are dominant.

  • Laser Research. In laser research, various schemes are explored for stabilizing lasers and also for using them as frequency standards. Recent work addresses the creation, utilization, and study of "ultrafast" laser pulses, which can be applied to investigations of semiconductor materials both to produce and control wave packets and to study nonlinear optical wave interactions. The evanescent wave property of light has been exploited to "guide" atoms through hollow fibers (i.e., to prevent them from touching the sides). Finally, the Division has a rapidly developing research thrust in ultrafast phase control and frequency measurements, which are applied to control both atom and molecule dynamics, as well as to access wholly new methods of frequency and length standards.

  • Fundamental Constants and Tests of Fundamental Postulates. There is considerable overlap with our laser research mentioned above and our work to develop lasers as optical frequency standards by producing different and better stabilized lasers. In addition, a new determination of G, the Newtonian constant of gravitation, is underway. Work is also progressing on a new absolute instrument that will make the transfer standard g, the acceleration gravity, more accessible for field measurements by the external research community for whom it provides a valuable indicator of vertical height changes (e.g., in observing post glacial rebound) as well as subsurface mass movements (e.g., in volcanology).

  • Nanostructure Development. Various forms of surface microscopies and optical probe techniques are important subjects for film thickness control and the investigations of nanostructures. Initially begun as a competence project in near field microscopy, challenges are addressed for ultrafast time contrast with high spatial resolution; these efforts have met with preliminary success. Deposition of films with precise layer thickness and composition are studied by laser detection methods and ion scattering probes.

  • Control of Atoms and Molecules. The Division exploits novel control mechanisms with optical light fields for a variety of advanced technologies that use the coherence properties of lasers. Novel wave packet states are produced with amplitude and phase control. Such results are important for encoding information in, for example, the field of quantum computation. The control of cold atoms guided through hollow optical fibers offers promise for new kinds of atom interferometers and matter gyroscopes.

  • Biophysics. The Division has initiated a program in biophysics - a rapidly expanding area of National and NIST interest.

Division Overview  |  Program Directions   |   Major Technical Highlights

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Online: March 2002