Joint Quantum Institute
NIST and the University of Maryland
Cold atoms have proved to be a highly successful workhorse for research in experimental and theoretical physics for over two decades now, touching on diverse areas such as atomic and molecular physics, precision measurement, condensed matter physics, and quantum information and computing. Recent developments in producing cold and ultra-cold molecules promise to open up many new aspects of studies with ultra-cold matter with temperature in the nanokelvin range. Molecules are much harder to cool and trap than atoms, because of their much more complex internal energy level structure of vibration and rotation. On the other hand, molecules can have relatively large dipole moments and consequently new ways of controlling and interacting them not available with atoms. This talk will review progress in making and using cold molecules, emphasizing the assembly of an ultra-cold molecule in its ground state from two already ultra-cold atoms. The quantum dynamics that determines the chemical reactions of two such molecules with nearly zero kinetic energy turns out in some cases to have a remarkably simple universal character, subject to experimental control using the bosonic or fermionic nature of the molecules or using electric fields to orient the molecules in various kinds of optical traps or lattices.
Location: Physics Bldg., Room 401