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Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics

How do particles stick to surfaces? How does the likelihood of sticking depend on physical quantities such as the energy of the particle or the strength of surface attraction? Are the conclusions different when the particle is an atom or small cluster of atoms? Are the results dependent on whether the target is metallic, superconducting, semiconducting or insulating? Is there a universal law for the likelihood of sticking for slow moving atoms? How does the temperature of the surface affect sticking? How do interatomic interactions in the incident beam affect sticking? These fundamental questions are explored by studying simple quantum mechanical models.

An understanding of this physics might be exploited to make low-loss atomic mirrors and other components in "atom-optics," where the wave nature of atoms is utilized in analogy with the way that electromagnetic waves are in conventional optical devices. Another application of this theoretical research that is currently being pursued by many experimental groups around the world is the refinement of microfabricated devices that store and manipulate cold atoms near surfaces, so-called "atom chips." The fundamental physics of the interactions of ultracold atoms with surfaces determines key aspects of the performance of these devices. It is envisioned that atom chips could be used for a variety of new quantum devices such as high sensitivity detectors or quantum information processing devices.

Last modified June 08 2007 05:16 PM

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