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

  • Charles H. Townes Assistant Professor of Physics

    Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics
    barthel@phy.duke.edu
    Research Interest:
    Quantum condensed matter theory and numerics, strongly correlated systems, quantum information, phase transitions, response functions, nonequilibrium phenomena, open systems, tensor network state techniques
  • R.J. Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Chemistry

    Professor of Chemistry

    Professor of Physics (Secondary)

    Professor of Biochemistry (Secondary)

    Faculty Network Member of The Energy Initiative
    david.beratan@duke.edu
    Research Interest:
    Molecular underpinnings of energy harvesting and charge transport in biology; the mechanism of solar energy capture and conversion in man-made structures
  • Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

    Associate Professor of Chemistry (Secondary)

    Associate Professor of Physics (Secondary)
    kenneth.r.brown@duke.edu
    Research Interest:
  • Associate Research Professor in the Department of Chemistry

    Associate Research Professor of Physics (Secondary)

    Faculty Network Member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences
    martin.fischer@duke.edu
    Research Interest:
    Exploration of novel nonlinear optical contrast mechanisms for molecular imaging.
  • Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
    jungsang@ee.duke.edu
    Research Interest:
    Quantum Information & Integrated Nanoscale Systems
  • Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

    Professor of Physics (Secondary)
    natalia.litchinitser@duke.edu
    Research Interest:
    Metamaterials that manipulate the visible portion of the elctromagnetic spectrum.
  • Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

    Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics (Joint)
    iman.marvian@duke.edu
    Research Interest:
    Quantum information and computation theory
  • Hertha Sponer Distinguished Professor of Physics

    Professor of Physics

    Professor of Biology (Secondary)
    cfschmidt@phy.duke.edu
    Research Interest:
    Molecular and Cellular Biophysics, studying the mechanics and dynamics of living systems on all levels, from single molecules, via biomacromolecular assemblies such as cytoskeletal filaments, virus particles or primary cilia, to the physical properties of cells and tissues. Particular interest lies on the non-equilibrium statistical physics of "active matter" in biology and on mechanosensory phenomena in cells. Experimental approaches include light and fluorescence microscopy , optical trapping, atomic force microscopy, micro- and macrorheolgy.
  • James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

    Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

    Director of the Center for Metamaterials and Integrated Plasmonics

    Professor of Physics (Secondary)

    Faculty Network Member of The Energy Initiative
    drsmith@duke.edu
    Research Interest:
    Theory, simulation and characterization of unique electromagnetic structures, including photonic crystals and metamaterials
  • James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Chemistry

    Professor of Chemistry

    Professor of Radiology (Joint)

    Professor of Physics (Joint)

    Member of the Duke Cancer Institute
    warren.warren@duke.edu
    Research Interest:
    Work primarily involves ultrafast laser or magnetic resonance spectroscopy/imaging, and ranges from fundamental physics to clinical applications.
  • Philip Handler Distinguished Professor of Chemistry

    Professor of Chemistry

    Professor in the Department of Physics (Secondary)

    Faculty Network Member of The Energy Initiative
    weitao.yang@duke.edu
    Research Interest:
    Developing methods for quantum mechanical calculations of large systems and carrying out quantum mechanical simulations of biological systems and nanostructures