Astrophysics and Cosmology
Research Highlight: Star Chemistry
The Ring Nebula was formed when a Sun-like star nearing the end of its life ejected part of its atmosphere into the interstellar medium. The nebular gas itself is heated by the UV continuum from the remnant of the original star visible at the center of the Ring. Also shown is a slitless spectrum of the Ring, where an image of the nebula appears at wavelengths of bright nebular emission. Planetary nebulae are useful in Prof. Henry’s research in determining properties of the interstellar medium as well as for studying the evolution of stars like the Sun. Credits: Image, Hubble Heritage Team (NASA); Spectrum: Julie Skinner (former OU Astronomy undergraduate), using the 2.1 meter telescope at KPNO.
Research Highlight: Active Galactic Nuclei
Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) such as the one imaged here by the Hubble Space Telescope, are the most luminous, persistently emitting individual objects in the Universe. They can be seen at the largest distances, and provide a probe of the early Universe after structure formation. Used as a background light, absorption lines in their spectra trace nonluminous matter. They are powered by accretion onto black holes, and are key for understanding black hole demographics and the black hole mass function. Prof. Leighly works to understand how the primary physical parameters for black hole accretion, the black hole mass and accretion rate, manifest themselves in the broad band continuum and line emission from AGN.
Research Highlight: OU-Apache Point Observatory Partnership
The University of Oklahoma has signed a 3-year lease agreement with the Astrophysical Research Consortium in Sunspot, NM (see the press release), giving its undergraduate students, graduate students, postdocs, and faculty access to research-grade 3.5m and 0.5m telescopes at the Apache Point Observatory. After being trained to use these facilities on-site in NM, OU astronomers will operate these telescopes from their offices in Norman. The agreement will help elevate OU’s astrophysics research profile and provide invaluable educational training to OU students.
Research Highlight: Finding the Big W
The image shows a candidate W boson production event at the Atlas detector at Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the CERN international research facility. The LHC is a proton-proton collider operating at center-of-mass energy 7 trillion electron volts. In this event the W boson has decayed to an electron plus a neutrino in the final state. The OU High Energy Physics group is heavily involved with the LHC Atlas detector.
Research Highlight: That Vacuum Is Really Something!
One effort of Prof. Milton and his research group is to understand the nature of the quantum vacuum, which is important in explaining dark energy as well having applications to nanotechnology. The images of cylindrical wedges may be relevant to understanding the quantum nature of cosmic strings, while the corrugated surfaces represent an idea for building nano-gears, in which the mechanical bodies never touch each other, but in which forces and torques are transmitted by quantum vacuum energy.
Condensed Matter Physics
Research Highlight: Good vibrations
On the top is a model of a carbon nanotube (CNT) to which alkane chains have been attached. Below are “bad” and “good” normal modes for conduction of heat through the system, as calculated by Abdellah Ait-Moussa, a student working with Prof. Mullen. A “bad” mode only couples to atoms in the CNT; a good one couples to the side chains as well as the CNT, so that the vibration and the energy it carries goes through the whole system. The goal of the research is to optimize the side chains to maximize the flow of heat. Improving heat conduction into CNT’s may lead to plastics that conduct heat as well as metals.
Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics
Research Highlight: Testing the Standard Model in a Single Molecule
Symmetry dictates that states of an atom or molecule with total angular momentum M?0 along the axis of an electric field will exhibit a two-fold degeneracy between states differing only in the sign of M. A time-reversal asymmetry could break this degeneracy. Almost every alternative to the Standard Model, (most notably Super Symmetric Theories), indicate that time-reversal asymmetry should lead to an observable energy difference between these otherwise degenerate ±M states. Prof. John Moore-Furneaux is searching for the signal of this time reversal asymmetry: a non-zero electric dipole moment of the electron. High precision measurements of PbF may reveal what billion dollar accelerators have not: evidence of physics beyond the Standard Model.
Research Highlight: Abraham Research Group
Our research group investigates ultracold atoms and molecules. Using lasers to cool rubidium atoms to less than 1 thousandth of a degree above absolute zero, we study their behavior. With lasers and precisely controlled magnetic fields we induce resonant collisions to form new molecules, which helps us better understand molecular interactions. We use diffractive optics to create unique atom trapping geometries, including toroidal and ring-shaped traps. The ultracold atoms are used as a medium for non-linear optics experiments with these novel laser fields that may impact optical computing. Contact Dr. Eric Abraham for more information.
Research Highlight: Schwettmann Group
Our group does research in the field of experimental ultracold atomic gases. We focus on cold collisions in sodium spinor Bose-Einstein condensates. At temperatures close to absolute zero, attainable with the methods of laser cooling and trapping and evaporative cooling, coherent collisional spin dynamics become observable in the gas. The dynamics are due to spin-exchange collisions and can be controlled with external fields. They present an opportunity to create exotic, entangled spin states useful for atom interferometry and will allow us to do experiments on quantum optics with matter waves. Currently we are in the early stages of setting up a new lab. Please do not hesitate to contact Professor Arne Schwettmann for more information.
Research Highlight: Shaffer Group
Our research group studies atom based sensing exotic states of matter and various topics involving quantum engineering. All of our projects currently involve Rydberg atoms. Rydberg atoms are highly excited atoms that possess exaggerated properties that make them well suited for applications that require controllable long range interactions. We have projects investigating novel long range molecules formed by Rydberg atoms such as macrodimers and trilobite molecules, studying Rydberg atoms for quantum optics and using Rydberg atoms for traceable sensing of electric fields. Please do not hesitate to contact Professor James Shaffer for more information.
Research Highlight: Watson Group
My group is engaged in the study of large many-body systems under quantum confinement, such as Bose-Einstein condensates and ultra-cold systems of Fermi gases. We are developing a method which minimizes numerical effort by using powerful group theoretic as well as graphical techniques. Our approach can handle strongly correlated systems of fermions and can describe their macroscopic collective motions. Fermion systems are important in many fields of physics provide the underpinnings for many technological applications. Our goal is to bridge the gap between a microscopic quantum description and the macroscopic properties of large N-particle correlated systems.
Research Highlight: Marino Group
Our research is in the field of experimental quantum optics, with particular emphasis on quantum information and quantum metrology. Quantum optics studies the quantum properties of light and their applications. Our research is based on the generation and control of entangled photons with atomic systems. The projects we are currently working on involve quantum engineering of our source to tailor the properties of the entangled photons and interfacing the entangled photons with devices, such as plasmonic sensors, to increase their sensitivity. Please do not hesitate to contact Professor Alberto Marino for more information.