2000 JR Macdonald Lab
Departmental Newsletter Article

Note that no attempt has been made to maintain the links in older newsletters.


News from the Macdonald Lab and the Field of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics

The laws of Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics are responsible for a huge array of natural phenomena that we witness in our everyday lives (rainbows, lightning, blue skies…) and provide us with a multitude of man-made devices that influence our quality of life (neon signs, x-rays, the laser, atomic clocks, electron beams…).  Many of the atomic phenomena have been understood for many decades, but we still are learning how to harness the power of the interrelations of atoms, molecules and photons.  Just two years ago Steven Chu, Claude-Cohen Tannoudji and Bill Phillips won the Nobel Prize in physics for developing methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light.  They demonstrated that atoms could be cooled to mK temperatures.  In the other extreme it has been demonstrated that atoms in the presence of intense laser fields can create new states of matter.  If the right conditions are met the lasers can be used to produce plasma of a few million degrees and lead to nuclear fusion. That is what the National Ignition Facility, NIF, at Livermore is all about.  It has also been demonstrated that high order coherent radiation is emitted when ultra-fast ultra-high intensity lasers bombard atoms to form high-energy plasma.  Don Umstader’s group at the University of Michigan recently observed the radiation patterns of the high order radiation from such systems as well as the coherence of the radiation.  One of the exciting prospects is to develop a table-top x-ray laser.

The mechanisms for forming cold atoms are understood, and recently the cooling has been improved so as to produce a Bose-Einstein condensate by the laser-gas interaction.  The physics of interacting condensates and the interaction of the condensate with the outside environment offer new avenues for the theory of scattering at the atomic level.  We recently hired Assistant Professor Brett Esry (see related article) who studied these systems for his Ph.D. at the University of Colorado.  Laser-cooled atoms make better atomic clocks, which have application in GPS systems, but also provide a new regime to measure the ion-atom scattering process.  Laser cooled atomic targets are now made in hundreds of labs around the world.  In the JRML Professor Brett DePaola is building a Magneto Optical Trap of cold Rb atoms that will be used as a cold target in a COLTRIMS (Cold-target recoil-ion momentum spectroscopy) experiment as has been developed by Professor Lew Cocke and collaborators.  The laser-cooled atoms will play the role of the usually supersonically cooled gas jet. Improvements in the momentum analysis as well as new types of collisions experiments could result.

We have laser-cooled atoms now and the JRML plan for the future is to produce so-called dressed states via ultra fast high intensity laser-atom interactions.  At the moment we do not have the lasers to do this work but we will propose this to the DOE in our next round of program review.  The combination of our ion beam capabilities and high power ultra-fast lasers would offer unique opportunities to study the mechanisms for producing the exotic states of matter and their decay channels, which are not understood.

Professor Itzik Ben-Itzhak’s group has recently demonstrated a new technique to measure charge transfer in ion-atom collisions at extremely low velocities (i.e. an energy of a few meV in the center of mass), far below what has been measured in the past.  The method is to look at the breakup of a molecule that has been electronically excited by a fast, very short pulse ion beam.  They observe the outgoing products in an imaging detector.  This project is Eric Wells’ dissertation.

Space doesn’t allow for a discussion of all the activities of the JRML.  The funding of the AMOP program is through three DOE grants and one NSF grant.  The lab is funded by the umbrella grant from DOE, which is $2 Million for operation and $400K for equipment replacement and upgrade.  We also have a $250K grant for installing a new high voltage ion source platform.  This will enable us to better serve our users.  During the last year we provided approximately 100 days of ion source/accelerator time for outside users.  All the outside users collaborated with JRML personnel.  Since the last writing Allen Landers graduated with his Ph.D. and has a research associate position at the University of  Western Michigan.  Professor Brett Esry has hired Dr. Esben Nielsen in a research associate position.  Habib Aliabadi, Erge Edgu-Fry, Thomas Ehrenreich, Danny Fry, Teck Lee, Ingrid Reiser, Ridvan Unal, Chris Verzani and Eric Wells are making progress towards getting a Ph.D.  We have four new graduate students in the JRML – Peter Nabradi, Hai Nguyen, Timur Osipov, and Mikhail Zamkov. We have recently hired Scott Chainey (EE May, 2000, KSU) for Electronic Design and Repair.  Scott replaces Steve Kelly who has accepted a new position at Montana State University in Bozeman.

On sabbatical leave this year are Professor Lew Cocke, at the University of California-Berkeley and then the MSI University in Stockholm, Sweden; Professor Siegbert Hagmann, at GSI, Darmstadt, Germany; and Professor Uwe Thumm at Harvard and then Freiburg University, Germany.

On sabbatical leave this year in the Macdonald Laboratory is Professor Hiro Tawara from the National Institute for Fusion Science, Toki, Japan.  Dr. Xavier Flechard, CIRIL, Caen, France, will begin a Research Associate position in the Macdonald Laboratory beginning February, 2000.

Pat Richard, Cortelyou-Rust Distinguished Professor
Director, J.R.Macdonald Lab


Professional Golf comes to Manhattan

The KSU Colbert Hills Golf Course will have its grand opening in May 2000.  Pro golfer Jim Colbert, former KSU student, who was instrumental in the concept and planning of the new KSU golf course, has invited a few celebrity pro golfers to participate in the event.

One of those celebrities is Deb Richard who grew up in Manhattan and has been on the LPGA Tour since 1986.  She is the daughter of Pat Richard, Cortelyou-Rust Distinguished Professor of Physics and Dea Richard, Administrative Assistant for the Macdonald Lab.  Deb has won 6 LPGA tournaments including the World Match Play Championship in Hawaii.  While at Manhattan High School, Deb won the state 6A golf championship each year; while at the University of Florida, she won 7 tournaments including 3 consecutive SEC Championships.  She still holds the university scoring record set in 1983-84.  Deb was inducted into the University of Florida Hall of Fame in 1995 and was recently selected one of the top 40 Athletes of the Century at Florida.  Deb won the 1984 U. S. Women’s Amateur Championship; a few months later she won the World Amateur Championship in Hong Kong while representing the U. S. team.

Besides being active on the LPGA pro golf tour, Deb has been very active in helping physically challenged youths.  This endeavor was inspired by a young girl with juvenile arthritis, who presented Deb with a bouquet of roses following Deb’s first LPGA win in Rochester, N.Y. in 1987.  Seven years ago, Deb began hosting a pro-am tournament in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida to raise money for college-bound, physically-challenged youths.  She founded the Deb Richard Foundation four years ago based upon proceeds from her annual pro-am.  Her Foundation awards 2-3 scholarships annually worth $5,000 per year for up to five years.



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