Experimental Optical Physics

Researchers in optical physics explore the interaction of light with matter by using and developing light sources that span the electromagnetic spectrum from the microwave to the X-ray region. This research is motivated by a wide variety of interests including the desire to understand fundamental features of nature, such as conceptual foundations of quantum mechanics at one extreme, and technology-oriented applications, such as biomedical imaging or optical communications, at the other.

Quantum Electronics

The Duke Quantum Electronics laboratory is involved in a diverse set of research projects in the areas of quantum optics, nonlinear optics, control and synchronization of chaos in optical and electronic systems, and characterizing and controlling the dynamics of biological systems. In the area of nonlinear optics, the researchers are developing a new type of all-optical switch based on the formation of transverse optical patterns. Interesting nonlinear and quantum optical effects are also being studied in a highly-anisotropic two-dimensional magneto-optical trap (MOT). This MOT traps a sample of cold atoms that is several cm long and provides sufficient optical depth to explore novel interactions between light and matter.

The Quantum Electronics Laboratory is also exploring methods to enhance nonlinear optical processes in optical fiber systems. Using Stimulated Brillouin Scattering (SBS), we have demonstrated slow and stopped light in optical fiber using commercial telecom devices and off-the-shelf components.

Faculty Research Interests

Professor Daniel J. Gauthier (Ph.D. Institute of Optics, U. Rochester, 1989) is interested in highly nonlinear matter-light interactions where standard perturbation techniques fail to adequately explain the observed behavior. He is studying various quantum optical systems that smoothly span the range in scale from microscopic (where quantum fluctuations are paramount) to macroscopic (where the behavior is nearly deterministic). He is currently developing an entirely new class of quantum oscillators, which are unique in that they are based on two-photon rather than one photon stimulated emission processes. Over the next several years, ongoing projects will explore two-photon lasers, controlling chaos in optical systems, and cavity quantum electrodynamics with cooled and trapped atoms.

Maiken H. Mikkelsen: Experiments in Nanophysics &  Condensed Matter Physics