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.

Potential student research projects

You could be doing your own research into atomic and molecular physics. Below are some examples of student physics research projects available in our school.

Measuring and modelling free-ion hyperfine fields

Motivated by exciting prospects for measurements of the magnetism of rare isotopes produced by the new radioactive beam accelerators internationally, this experimental and computational project seeks to understand the enormous magnetic fields produced at the nucleus of highly charged ions by their atomic electron configuration.

Professor Andrew Stuchbery, Emeritus Professor Tibor Kibedi, Dr Brendan McCormick

Attosecond time-resolved atomic reactions

We apply the most advanced quantum-mechanical modeling to resolve electron motion in atoms and molecules on the atto-second (one quintillionth of a second) time scale.  Our theoretical modeling, based on a rigorous, quantitative description of correlated electron dynamics, provides insight into new physics taking place on the atomic time scale.

Professor Anatoli Kheifets, Dr Igor Ivanov

Atomic ionization in super-strong laser fields

Using methods of quantum many-body theory to describe elementary processes in atoms and molecules interacting with strong electromagnetic fields.

Professor Anatoli Kheifets, Dr Igor Ivanov

Interactions between antimatter and ultracold atoms

Antiparticles and antimatter have progressed from theory and science fiction to become an important and exciting area of pure and applied science. This fundamental atomic physics project will investigate how antimatter and matter interact by experimentally studying the interaction of positrons (the electron anti-particle) with trapped ultracold rubidium atoms.

Dr Sean Hodgman, Professor Stephen Buckman, Dr Joshua Machacek

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