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.  ALIS is set to open in the French Family Science Center in the spring of 2018.

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).

Atomic/Molecular/Optical (AMO) Physics Faculty

  • Thomas Barthel

    Charles H. Townes Assistant Professor of Physics
    Research Interest:
    Quantum many-body theory, strongly correlated systems, entanglement, phase transitions, response functions, nonequilibrium phenomena, simulation using DMRG and tensor network states; Theoretical and numerical investigation of ultra-cold atoms in optical lattices, phase transitions, nonequilibrium, thermometry
  • David N. Beratan

    R.J. Reynolds Professor of Chemistry
    Research Interest:
    Molecular underpinnings of energy harvesting and charge transport in biology; the mechanism of solar energy capture and conversion in man-made structures
  • Martin Fischer

    Associate Research Professor in the Department of Chemistry
    Research Interest:
  • Jungsang Kim

    Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
    Research Interest:
    Quantum Information & Integrated Nanoscale Systems
  • Maiken Mikkelsen

    Nortel Networks Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
    Research Interest:
    Experiments in Nanophysics & Condensed Matter Physics
  • Christoph F. Schmidt

    Scholar In Residence of Physics
    Research Interest:
  • David R. Smith

    James B. Duke Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
    Research Interest:
    Theory, simulation and characterization of unique electromagnetic structures, including photonic crystals and metamaterials
  • Warren S. Warren

    James B. Duke Professor of Chemistry
    Research Interest:
    Novel pulsed techniques, using controlled radiation fields to alter dynamics; ultrafast laser spectroscopy or nuclear magnetic resonance
  • Weitao Yang

    Philip Handler Professor of Chemistry in Trinity College of Arts and Sciences
    Research Interest:
    Developing methods for quantum mechanical calculations of large systems and carrying out quantum mechanical simulations of biological systems and nanostructures