Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (commonly referred to AMO Physics) is the study of the interaction between light and matter. Physicists study this interaction on various scales, from the atomic to molecular level, in order to explore critical scientific questions. AMO physicists strive to understand and control atoms, molecules, and light in new ways that were hardly dreamed about, only a decade ago. Experiments pioneered in the Department of Physics and in the affiliated institute JILA resulted in two shared Nobel Prizes in Physics in 2001 for the creation of ultracold quantum gases and another in 2005 for breakthroughs in ultraprecise laser and optical physics.
Some of the fastest lasers in the world, whose pulse of light last less than a millionth of a billionth of a second, reside in experimental laboratories here, as well as theoretical studies of their potential exploitation for new ways to probe and manipulate matter.
Experiments and theory also tackle the fundamental chemical physics processes and reactions that occur in the cold reaches of interstellar clouds in space, of interdisciplinary interest for chemistry and astrophysics in addition to physics. Another frontier pursued by cutting edge research here is the crafting of atom-light interactions so precise that a new generation of atomic clocks can be envisioned, whose accuracy approaches 1 second in the lifetime of the universe. This is the age of controlling nature at the quantum level, and this forefront area generates tremendous excitement on the Boulder campus and beyond.