Atomic and molecular physics research

The physical properties of atoms and molecules, underpin the nature of all matter and as such their study represents a fundamental discipline. The School has a number of research programs in this area.

The School partially hosts the ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Atom Optics, and plays a leading role in the development of laser and magnetic cooling systems designed to create Bose Einstein condensates and atomic beams. RSPhysSE recently became one of only four groups in the world to achieve a BEC using excited metastable helium.

The School is a partial host to The ARC Centre of Excellence for Antimatter-Matter Studies whose experimental and theoretical program is based around the study of the interaction of positrons with matter. Anti-particles give a unique insight into the structure and properties of matter with applications in fundamental science, medicine and nanoscale materials. This work is complimented by a strong research effort in electron physics, especially electron momentum spectroscopy.

We also study ultra violet physics and problems of atmospheric, aeronomic and astrophysical significance, relating to the interaction of vacuum ultraviolet radiation with gaseous matter. Such studies are fundamental to understanding the distribution of ozone, and the behaviour of atmospheric pollutants. Quantum mechanical modelling of spectra is used to interpret photoabsorption spectroscopy measurements.

Selected research highlights

Potential student research projects

You could be doing your own research into fusion and plasma confinement. Below are some examples of student physics research projects available in RSPE.

Please browse our full list of available physics research projects to find a project that interests you.

Low temperature plasmas are being exploited for new medical therapy techniques and in engineering applications in agriculture. This project explores the fundamental behaviour of how electrons penetrate a liquid surface, such as the skin of the body.

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We create the coldest stuff in the Universe – a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) – by laser-cooling helium atoms to within a millionth of a degree Kelvin. At these extremely low temperatures particles behave more like waves.  You will use the BEC to study fundamental quantum mechanics and for applications like atom interferometry.

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There is growing recognition that molecularly targeted radiopharmaceuticals that incorporate low energy electron emitting radioisotopes can provide a precise means of delivering lethal doses to cancer cells while sparing the neighbouring healthy ones. This unique therapeutic effect is due to the high energy deposition of low-energy electrons passing through the biological medium. 

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This experimental project will characterize the hyperfine fields of ions emerging from target foils as highly charged ions. The data will test theoretical models we are developing, and underpin nuclear magnetism measurements on rare isotopes produced at international radioactive beam facilities such as GANIL (France), ISOLDE-CERN (Switzerland) and NSCL (USA).

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Updated:  17 August 2017/ Responsible Officer:  Director, RSPE/ Page Contact:  Physics Webmaster