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.

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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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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Using the atomic and molecular physics positron beam at the ANU, the student will undertake measurements of positron scattering from simple targets, providing high accuracy data to test recent theoretical calculations.

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The Global Network of Optical Magnetometers for Exotic Physics (GNOME) uses precision atomic magnetometers to look new physics.  The concept is to have a global network of magnetometers looking for correlated magnetic field fluctuations that may be caused by strange, and unknown physics.

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