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Laser Cooling and Cold Atomic Matter:


to advance the understanding and applications of cold atomic matter, including the study of many-body quantum systems, exotic states of matter, atomic analogs of condensed-matter systems, metrology of and with cold atoms, and quantum information.


This topic area focuses on the physics and applications of laser cooling and electromagnetic trapping of neutral particles, the manipulation of ultracold atoms and Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs), and the creation of exotic states of matter through control of ultracold atoms. It includes both fundamental studies, like the investigation of superfluidity, and applied studies, such as quantum information processing and the engineering of synthetic charge along with synthetic electric and magnetic fields for neutral atoms. A strong theoretical-experimental collaboration within NIST and now extending to new colleagues within the JQI helps interpret experimental results and provides guidance for new experiments.

The development of laser cooling and trapping techniques, much of which was done at NIST, allows exquisite control over the motion of atoms. Such control has been exploited to build more precise atomic clocks and other precision measurement devices at NIST and elsewhere. These techniques also enable the study and manipulation of atoms and molecules under conditions in which their quantum or wave behavior dominates. This research has revolutionized the field of matter-wave optics, given rise to the field of quantum simulation, and now allows the simulation of the behavior of charged particles using neutral atoms.

Theoretically and experimentally, our program goals are to understand and exploit: neutral atom BEC; matter-wave optics; optical and magnetic control of trapped, ultracold atom collisions; advanced laser cooling and collision studies for atomic clocks; the quantum behavior of atoms in optical lattices and simulation of condensed matter models with cold atoms; quantum information processing; and quantum computing architectures.

Highlights and Accomplishments

Press Releases

Flatland Physics Probes Mysteries of Superfluidity
Motion Damping Explained
Ultracold Polar Molecules
Stirring Up New Physics in Toroidal BECs
Optical Lattices Shape Up
NIST Announces First Observation of Persistent Flow in a Gas