Atomic and Optical Physics: Light Forces and Laser Cooling


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In this physics course, you will learn about the spontaneous and stimulated light force and friction force in molasses and optical standing waves. You will also study light forces in the dressed atom picture. The course will discuss the techniques of magneto-optical traps and sub-Doppler and sub-recoil cooling.

This course is a part of a series of courses to introduce concepts and current frontiers of atomic physics, and to prepare you for cutting-edge research:

  • 8.422.1x: Quantum states and dynamics of photons
  • 8.422.2x: Atom-photon interactions
  • 8.422.3x: Optical Bloch equations and open system dynamics
  • 8.422.4x: Light forces and laser cooling
  • 8.422.5x: Ultracold atoms and ions for many-body physics and quantum information science

At MIT, the content of the five courses makes the second of a two-semester sequence (8.421 and 8.422) for graduate students interested in Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics. This sequence is required for Ph.D. students doing research in this field.

Completing the series allows you to pursue advanced study and research in cold atoms, as well as specialized topics in condensed matter physics. In these five courses you will learn about the following topics:

  • quantum states and dynamics of photons
  • photon-atom interactions: basics and semiclassical approximations
  • open system dynamics
  • optical Bloch equations
  • applications and limits of the optical Bloch equations
  • dressed atoms
  • light force
  • laser cooling
  • cold atoms
  • evaporative cooling
  • Bose-Einstein condensation
  • quantum algorithms and protocols
  • ion traps and magnetic traps