Atomic and Optical Physics II >> Content Detail




This course covers topics in the areas of non-classical states of light, coherence, trapping and cooling and atomic interactions.


There were ten problem sets. Assignments were usually due one week after they were handed out. There was no quiz or final exam, but a term paper at the end of the course. This was a paper in the style of a publication in Physical Review Letters on a topic of mutual interest (see below).  The term paper was due on the day of the last class.


There was no textbook. The course was based on several books and original publications.  See the readings section.


The term paper and the homework have equal weight for the total grade.

Problem Sets50%
Term Paper50%

Term Paper

The goal of the term paper was to investigate a problem in contemporary AMO physics and to describe it lucidly and succinctly. Original ideas or proposals for a new theoretical project or an experiment of your own - even an experiment that doesn’t appear worth doing or is ultimately unworkable - were very welcome. However, a review of some topic of contemporary research was perfectly acceptable, or if students wanted to extend a topic that was covered only briefly in class. The topic should not strongly overlap with the students' research, but could be related. The length of the paper should be comparable, but not exceed that of a letter in Physical Review Letters. Students were asked to follow the general style of PRL, including a short abstract and the convention for references. Illustrations could be sketched by hand or copied from the literature (with acknowledgment), either inserted in the text or collected at the end.

The paper was due on the last day of class. Extensions could only be granted in exceptional cases. The grade was based on physics contents (whether the important scientific parts are covered) and on clarity of exposition and style.

Possible Topics for Term Papers

The following was a list of suggested topics.

Cooling and Trapping of Neutral Atoms

  • Optical cooling below the recoil limit (Raman cooling and VSCPT)
  • Cold excited-state collisions and trap loss
  • Photoassociation spectroscopy of ultracold atoms
  • The scattering length and ultracold ground state collisions
  • Atom mirrors and atom cavities
  • Optical signatures of a Bose-Einstein condensate
  • Optical lattices
  • Collective excitations of Bose-Einstein condensates
  • Atomic waveguides, hollow fibers etc.
  • Long range molecules: molecules only bound by the long-range van der Waals force
  • State of the art in atom lithography
  • Possible experiments with trapped molecules
  • Superfluidity in Bose-Einstein condensates
  • BCS pairing in ultracold fermions
  • Ultracold molecules

Quantum Optics

  • Normal-mode splitting in cavity QED
  • Single atoms in optical cavities
  • Recent experiments on squeezed light
  • The one-atom maser or one atom laser
  • Quantum non-demolition experiments of photon states in cavities
  • Inhibited spontaneous emission and other properties of the vacuum in confined space
  • The Casimir force: recent  experiments on the Casimir-Polder retarded potential
  • Loss of coherence in a microwave cavity (Haroche's recent work)
  • Lasing without inversion
  • Electromagnetically induced transparency
  • Quantum non-demolition measurement of a single photon
  • Quantum teleportation

Ion Trapping

  • Cooling of ions
  • Frequency standards with trapped ions
  • Entangled states
  • Quantum computation
  • Shelving, photon anti-bunching and quantum jumps of trapped ions
  • Non-classical states of trapped ions (Schroedinger's cat)

Precision Experiments

  • Parity non-conservation in atoms
  • Current experiments for the determination of the Rydberg constant
  • Time-reversal experiments in atoms
  • Atomic fountains - the next generation of atomic clocks
  • The Heisenberg limit in precision (1/N scaling) - prospects with BEC
  • Anti-hydrogen
  • Ultrahigh laser resolution spectroscopy
  • Direct measurements of optical frequencies using frequency chains
  • Spectroscopy of positronium

Atom Interferometry

  • Atom interferometers as rotational and gravitational sensors
  • The Aharonov-Casher and Bohm-Aharanov effect; Berry's topological phase
  • Which way detection and quantum eraser
  • Time domain interferometry

Quantum Measurements

  • Determination of the density matrix (Wigner function)
  • Quantum non-demolition experiments
  • Realizations of Schroedinger's cat
  • Quantum Computation with Trapped Ions
  • Search for non-linearities in quantum mechanics
  • Quantum cryptography, or quantum teleportation
  • Non-exponential decay: Discuss why the decay of an excited atom is not purely exponential

Atomic and Molecular Structure

  • Doubly excited atoms, planetary atoms
  • Atoms in high electric and magnetic fields
  • Molecular spectroscopy close to the dissociation limit
  • Wave packets in Rydberg atoms


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