Leo Hollberg, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Stable Lasers and Cold Atoms
Physics Division Colloquium - 1 Dec 2006

A growing synergism between precision laser spectroscopy, laser-cooling of atoms, and ultra-fast science is enabling new scientific searches in unexplored regions, as well as technological advances of practical importance. Reasonably well developed tools now include: frequency-stabilized cw lasers with spectral (energy) resolving power 1 part in 1015, cold neutral atoms with absolute motional temperatures < 1 microkelvin, and the revolutionary "optical frequency combs" based on mode-locked lasers. Some of the promising applications are optical atomic clocks with unprecedented performance, searches for time-variation of fundamental "constants", precise spectroscopy of atoms and simple molecules over broad spectral regions, optical and electronic pulses with ultra-low timing jitter ( in the fs range) and generation of microwave signals with extremely low phase-noise. This field is expanding and advancing extremely rapidly because of the new technologies, but also because of new understandings and perspectives. Optics combined with atomic physics bring several advantages and unique capabilities (low loss, high-Q, quantum information), and some fundamental limitations. Reproducible laboratory experiments can be performed to test fundamental theories and postulates, and in some cases can set more stringent bounds on validity.

ANL Physics Division Colloquium Schedule