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Molecules in the Quantum Regime

Professor Jun Ye

University of Colorado, Boulder, USA
Australian Academy of Science Frew Fellow for 2011

11:30 am Wednesday, 24 August 2011, EN313 Lecture Theatre (EN Building), Hawthorn.

Molecules at ultralow temperatures represent an exciting new frontier for atomic, molecular, and optical physics that is endowed with a strong interdisciplinary character and connections to other scientific fields, including chemistry, quantum information, and condensed matter physics. 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.
Reaching the ultracold regime with molecules has long been hindered by the complex energy level structure of molecules, but the situation is now changing rapidly. Our recent experiment has 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 collisions must be described in terms of quantum wave functions. We can control the reaction rate using quantum statistics of the molecules. Long-range and anisotropic dipolar interactions have been observed in the thermodynamics of the molecular gas. Further, molecules can be confined in reduced spatial dimensions and the inelastic and elastic collision rates can be 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.

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