Molecules are quantum – chemistry near absolute zero
Professor Jun Ye
University of Colorado
Molecules at ultralow temperatures represent an exciting new frontier for science, with a strong interdisciplinary character linking diverse scientific fields, including quantum physics, atomic physics, chemistry, and condensed matter. These connections, and many possibilities for technological advances, arise naturally, as molecules constitute the ubiquitous building blocks of materials and embody common drives for everyday energy-flow and dynamics. Control of molecular interactions has thus been an outstanding scientific quest for generations. Producing molecules near absolute zero has long been hindered by their complex energy level structure, but our recent experiments have brought molecules into the quantum regime, in which interaction dynamics must be described fully quantum mechanically. We will present the first set of experiments that demonstrate ultracold molecular collisions and chemical reactions where dynamics are governed by wave mechanics. We control the chemical reaction via quantum statistics of the molecules, along with their long-range and anisotropic dipolar interactions. Further, molecules can be confined in reduced spatial dimensions and their interactions are precisely manipulated via an external electric field. Those efforts serve as an important staging ground for the next step of exploring collective quantum effects in an ultracold gas of molecules.
Professor Jun Ye is a Fellow of JILA and Physics Professor Adjoint at the University of Colorado. He is also a Fellow of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a Fellow of the American Physical Society, a Fellow of the Optical Society of America, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. His research includes precision measurement and metrology, ultracold atoms and molecules, ultrafast science and quantum control. He has co-authored over 200 scientific papers and delivered over 300 invited talks. Awards and honours include the Frew Fellowship (Australian Academy of Science), I. I. Rabi Prize (APS), European Frequency & Time Forum Award, Carl Zeiss Award, W. F. Meggers Award (OSA), A. Lomb Medal (OSA), A. S. Flemming Award, Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, Gold Medal (U.S. Commerce Department), F. W. Bessel Award (Humboldt Foundation), S. W. Stratton Award (NIST).