Atomic / Molecular / Optical (AMO) Physics

AMO physics explores the interaction of light with matter, using and developing light sources that span the electromagnetic spectrum from the microwave to the X-ray region. These distinct subfields are often grouped together, as experiments are typically small-laboratory scale with many techniques in common, and the theoretical treatment intimately blends quantum and statistical mechanics. The research motivation ranges from interest in understand fundamental features of nature, such as the conceptual foundations of quantum mechanics, to technology-oriented applications such as biomedical imaging or quantum computation.

Atomic physics at Duke has two major thrusts: nuclear magnetic resonance (including methods to create large nuclear “hyperpolarization” and use it as a structural probe), and single- or few-atom approaches to encode information or create quantum logic gates. Molecular physics is the realm of the chemical bond, and at Duke includes strong theoretical and experimental efforts to understand molecular dynamics, at size ranges up to tens of nanometers (including proteins and other biomolecules). Optical physics ranges from advanced microscopy methods (including the new ALIS center) to disruptive new technologies (such as metamaterials, plasmonic nanoantennas, and controllable single-photon emitters).

Associated Centers and Laboratories

The Duke Advanced Light Imaging and Spectroscopy Center will provide past-commercial optical instrumental for a wide variety of user needs, including light sheet microscopy and nonlinear imaging.

The Center for Molecular and Biomolecular Imaging develops new methods for hyperpolarized magnetic resonance (such as parahydrogen based technologies for carbon and nitrogen molecular polarization) and nonlinear microscopy of tissue for melanoma diagnosis.

The Duke Quantum Electronics laboratory is involved in a diverse set of research projects in the areas of quantum optics, nonlinear optics, control and synchronization of chaos in optical and electronic systems, and characterizing and controlling the dynamics of biological systems. In the area of nonlinear optics, the researchers are developing a new type of all-optical switch based on the formation of transverse optical patterns. Interesting nonlinear and quantum optical effects are also being studied in a highly-anisotropic two-dimensional magneto-optical trap (MOT).