Intellectual Outlines of Current Research
Each agency was asked to describe the current intellectual portfolio and funding profile for the research it funds today and how that has evolved over the last decade (see also Appendix B). They were also asked to describe what percentage of their funds goes to theoretical and to experimental work and the degree to which their agency supports interdisciplinary activity that includes AMO science. As expected, AMO science is sometimes funded by several parts of a given agency. This is so because on the one hand it is such a broad field and on the other, the support of AMO involved the construction of new facilities. In some cases agencies spend pass-through funds from other agencies on AMO-related activity.
One of the great strengths of the American research enterprise is its breadth. This is very clear in AMO science, with its very rich intellectual prospects, its wide variety of funding sources, and the many modalities available for accomplishing the work. The information provided by the agencies is given below. Conclusions based on it are given in Chapter 8.
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE FUNDING AGENCIES
AFOSR, ARO, ONR—located in the Departments of the Air Force, Army, and Navy—and DARPA are all funded by DOD. Their missions, while differing in detail, are broadly directed at protecting U.S. national security. They differ chiefly in the fraction of support they provide to basic, long-range research relative to that for achieving much more immediate goals.
While some of these agencies have programs specifically in AMO science, there is a strong tendency, especially at DARPA, to multidisciplinary work that is difficult to categorize. There is also a lot of emphasis on engineering applications, often with a quick turnaround. To advance the multidisciplinary effort, DOD has created the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program, which provides a fixed $1 million per year for up to 5 years to each center. Each of the armed services agencies has a MURI component in its program; DARPA does not.
Air Force Office of Scientific Research
AFOSR maintains a relatively stable Atomic and Molecular Physics Program funded from the 6.1 basic research budget. Traditionally this program has not included much optical science, but this component is growing and now represents about 20 percent of the overall effort. There is also a separate Optics and Lasers Program at AFOSR, as well as programs in electro-op tics and in nanoelectronics (including work in negative index materials), which is not included in the funding data reported elsewhere in this report.
The philosophy of the AFOSR atomic and molecular physics program is to fund the best science to form a solid research foundation for areas relevant to the Air Force. Recent supported work includes novel methods for ultracooling; precision metrology, including atom interferometry; antihydrogen; optical lattices; optical frequency combs; and electromagnetic induced transparency (slow light). AFOSR supports one MURI in laser diagnostic testing of materials. About 10 percent of AFOSR funds go to theoretical work, but this would be larger with additional funding.
Army Research Office
In rough terms, half of ARO funds for its Atomic and Molecular Physics program and its Optics, Photonics and Imaging program go to atomic and molecular physics and half goes to optical physics. The work is funded from the 6.1 basic research budget. Looking at the data another way, the funds are distributed 80 percent to quantum phenomena (atom optics, quantum optics, degenerate gases) and 20 percent to other fields. About 20 percent of the funding goes to theoretical work.
The recent trend at ARO has been to shift from attempting to cover AMO broadly to supporting more specific research themes. Present areas of interest are atomic and molecular degenerate gases; molecular cooling; optical lattices (for example, for quantum simulations of condensed matter systems); quantum imaging; negative index materials; electromagnetically induced transparency and ultra-broad-band light generation; imaging science broadly; and atom optics. In
a typical year, three MURIs are supported. Thus, more than half of the funding is explicitly multidisciplinary.
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
DARPA’s mission statement sets it apart from other research funding agencies: The mission is to maintain the technological superiority of the U.S. military and prevent technological surprise from harming our national security. DARPA support for any discipline such as AMO physics is constantly shifting. It does this by sponsoring revolutionary, high-payoff research that bridges the gap between fundamental discoveries and their military use. It is by nature highly interdisciplinary (for example, DARPA does not have an identified “AMO program”) and does not distinguish between experimental and theoretical work—the research supported will be the research that is necessary to solve the problem at hand. To perform this mission, DARPA manages and directs selected basic and applied research and development projects for DOD and pursues research and technology where risk and payoff are both very high and where success may provide dramatic advances for traditional military roles and missions. The balance of support therefore changes with the ongoing assessment of technology risk and payoff across scientific and technical disciplines. DARPA funds universities, government laboratories, small businesses, and large corporations, utilizing a wide range of contractual vehicles, including grants, but mostly contracts, cooperative agreements, and other transaction agreements.
DARPA has several ongoing programs that support ways to utilize fundamental AMO science in pursuit of DARPA goals. In 2005, these included, among others, the following:
Quantum Information Science and Technology. The program will explore all facets of the research necessary to create a new technology based on quantum information science. Research in this area has the ultimate goal of demonstrating the potentially significant advantages of quantum mechanical effects in communications and computing. Error correction codes, fault-tolerant schemes, and longer decoherence times will address the loss of information. Signal attenuation will be overcome by exploring quantum repeaters. New algorithm techniques and complexity analysis will increase the selection of algorithms, as will a focus on signal processing.
Chip-Scale Atomic Clock (CSAC). The goal is to create ultraminiaturized, low-power atomic time and frequency reference units that will achieve dramatic reductions in size and power consumption, with accuracy specifications similar to present-day rack-mounted devices. The development of
CSACs will enable ultraminiaturized (wristwatch size) and ultra-low-power time and frequency references for high-security, ultra-high-frequency communication and jam-resistant GPS receivers.
Precision Inertial Navigation Systems (PINS) and Guided BEC Interferometry (gBEC-I). The PINS program seeks to use ultracold atom interferometers as an alternative to GPS position updates. Advances in atomic physics over the past two decades have allowed scientists exquisite control over the external quantum states of atoms, including the deliberate production of matter waves from ultracold atoms. This has allowed the development of matter-wave interferometry techniques to measure forces acting on matter, including high-precision atomic accelerometers and gyroscopes. An inertial navigation system that used this technology would have unprecedented low drift rates.
Slow Light. This program is developing functional material systems with the capability to slow and store pulses of light. Perhaps the most dramatic of these slow light pulses to a few meters per second and store and then retrieve a light pulse over several hundred milliseconds. Materials with such capabilities could be used for tunable optical delay lines, optical buffers, high-extinction optical switches, and highly efficient wavelength converters.
Office of Naval Research
The ONR Atomic and Molecular Physics Program focuses entirely on atomic and molecular physics in areas tied to navigation, timekeeping, and sensing applications of relevance to the Navy’s mission (“situational awareness”). The optical physics component of the ONR program was eliminated about 3 years ago, in spite of its history of funding some dramatic advances (see Boxes 2–3 and 7–3).1 ONR supports three MURIs, two in the area of optical frequency standards and atomic clocks, and the third in studies of sub-shot-noise metrology using quantum control techniques. About 33 percent of available funds go to theoretical work.
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
DOE’s AMOS program in the Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES) is supported in the context of DOE’s overall mission to provide support for energy sciences. It has four thrust areas: Intense Field and Ultrafast X-ray Science, 53 percent of available funds in FY2005; Cooperative, Correlated Phenomena, 28 percent; Ultracold Atoms and Molecules, 12 percent; and Nanoscale Science, 7 percent. These
are prominent areas of interest in AMO science generally. The AMOS program has seen a significant shift of interest from atomic collision physics and spectroscopy a decade ago to nonperturbative interactions in complex systems and manipulation and control of interactions. The M in AMO science is increasingly prominent in the program (additional information can be found on the Web2).
Theory is a significant part of the DOE portfolio. About 38 percent of the current principal investigators (PIs) and co-PIs at universities and DOE’s national laboratories are theorists (30 out of 83; however, somewhat less than 38 percent of the funding goes into the theoretical effort). The Chemical Sciences Division at BES has an initiative under way to increase the number of theory projects division-wide. This resulted in three new theory starts in AMOS in FY2005.
Since AMO is an enabling science, multidisciplinary efforts with elements of AMO science play an important role in other DOE programs. For instance, BES draws on AMO science in developing next-generation light sources like the forth-coming LCLS at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC). BBS’s increasing interest in ultrafast science has led to a number of multidisciplinary efforts with a significant AMO component. Examples include ultrafast beamlines at the Advanced Light Source at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), a new ultrafast x-ray science laboratory at LBNL, and a new ultrafast science center at SLAC. BES programs in nanotechnology, combustion, chemical physics, radiation and photochemistry, heavy element chemistry, separations and analysis, chemical imaging, and interface science all support multidisciplinary efforts that complement the AMOS program and draw on AMO science. Within the AMOS program itself, support is provided for multidisciplinary efforts in nanoscience, photoenergy conversion, imaging at interfaces, and investigation of ultrafast processes in the condensed phase. Outside BES, AMO science has an impact on other DOE multi-disciplinary efforts, notably in fusion energy science, environmental remediation, biological science (mainly for imaging), and high energy density science.3
NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY
The Department of Commerce operates NIST as a part of its mission program in metrology. It maintains three major sites active in AMO physics: the laboratories at its headquarters in Gaithersburg, Maryland; the laboratories at its Boulder, Colorado, facility; and the JILA laboratory on the University of Colorado campus in
See <http://www.sc.doe.gov/bes/brochures/BES_CRAs/CRA_13_AMO_Science.pdf>, accessed June 2006.
For more detailed information on the portfolio, such as summaries of projects, locations, and funding for work in specific areas, one can perform key word searches at <http://doe.confex.com/doe/htsearch.cgi>, accessed June 2006.
Boulder. It funds AMO research in six of its divisions: Electron and Optical Physics; Atomic Physics; Optical Technology; Optoelectronics; Time and Frequency; and Quantum Physics.
Support at NIST has increased for laser cooling and trapping, Bose-Einstein condensates, Fermi gas condensation, frequency combs and ultrafast optics, nanooptics, infrared and terahertz radiometry and spectroscopy, optical remote sensing, molecular biophysics, nanofabrication, and nanometrology. Support is down for atomic and molecular collisions (theory and experiment), plasma spectroscopy, x-ray spectroscopy, and atomic and molecular spectroscopy. About 95 percent of NIST funds go to experimental work and 5 percent to theory.
The NIST laboratories have achieved an outstanding record of leadership and productivity in research over the last 10 to 15 years. This has been internationally recognized at the highest level by the award of four Nobel prizes in AMO physics since 1997 to scientists at NIST and the University of Colorado.
In addition to these areas, AMO science plays a very significant role in several other NIST programs in biosystems and health; nanotechnology; homeland security; semiconductor metrology; and quantum information science. An overview of the NIST program can be found in its recent annual report.4
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
The NASA effort in AMO science has changed quite a bit over the last few years with the recent elimination of the program in fundamental physics. For example, the Microgravity program provided very significant support for front-rank research in both the AMO and condensed matter physics communities, so its termination is a serious blow to the NASA program. In addition, the gravity program contains only trace amounts of AMO science.
Today, the Laboratory Astrophysics program exists primarily to supply spectroscopic data in support of NASA missions. Hence it concentrates on the atoms and molecules that exist in a space environment and that emit and absorb at wavelengths accessible to NASA missions. Similarly, about 20 percent of the various Planetary Sciences programs could be called “applied atomic physics” because they focus on such issues as molecular and atomic spectra at extremes of temperature and pressure. However, there is concern that the level of support for laboratory astrophysics may not be sufficient for it to play its essential scientific role in the programs of a number of prominent astronomy facilities (see Box D-1).
For more information see <http://www.physics.nist.gov/TechAct.2004/NIST-PhysLab2004TechAct.pdf>.
Atomic and Molecular Astrophysics Research Support
As noted above and in Chapter 2, atomic and molecular studies of a variety of collision processes and spectroscopy are of critical importance to astronomy. Although one to two decades ago support for research in these areas made up a large fraction of the AMO physics funding portfolio at NSF and DOE, these agencies currently fund very little of this research. This decline in support for atomic and molecular astrophysics (“laboratory astrophysics”) at these agencies is due to the competition for AMO physics support from the many other forefront areas described in this report.
However, some laboratory astrophysics continues to be funded at NASA (~$4 million) in support of NASA missions. But considering the current and future needs of the astrophysics community, especially as newer, very powerful ground-based and space-based instruments with greater photon sensitivity and higher spectroscopic resolution are developed, the field of atomic and molecular astrophysics may not be able to support the use of these new instruments to their fullest capacities. There is concern that the field of laboratory astrophysics is not currently training enough graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to maintain research expertise as senior scientists in this field retire. In view of the very large federal investment in such instruments and facilities as the Chandra X-ray Space Telescope; the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), under construction; and the James Webb Space Telescope (scheduled for launch in 2013), this issue must be examined carefully, across the agencies, in the context of other priorities in AMO science and in astronomy.
Work on atomic clocks is continuing at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), but it is now of a much different character. The goal is no longer ultrahigh stability but rather the construction of small stable clocks for space missions. There is also ongoing work on atom-wave interferometers on a chip, again for space missions. JPL is also vigorously pursuing work in quantum optics.
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
The NSF’s Atomic, Molecular, Optical, and Plasma Physics (AMOP) program encompasses four areas: Precision Measurements, 22 percent of available funds in FY2005; Atomic and Molecular Dynamics (mostly support of BECs and related subjects), 42 percent; Atomic and Molecular Structure, 12 percent; and Optical Physics, 24 percent. Support in the first three areas includes activities in quantum control, cooling and trapping of atoms and ions, low-temperature collision dynamics, the collective behavior of atoms in weakly interacting gases (BECs and dilute Fermi degenerate systems), precision measurements of fundamental constants, and the effects of electron correlation on structure and dynamics. In optical physics, support is provided in areas such as nonlinear response of isolated atoms to
intense, ultrashort electromagnetic fields, the atom-cavity interaction at high fields, and quantum properties of the electromagnetic field. The AMO theory program covers the same broad areas.
NSF, unlike the other agencies discussed, is not a mission-oriented agency. Rather, it shapes its scientific portfolio based mostly on the scientific interest and merit of the proposals submitted by the community. Observation of Bose-Einstein condensation (BEC) in 1995 led to growth in that area. Thus the more mature areas of AMO research in individual-particle collisions, such as electron-atom scattering and ion scattering, have become less active than research in cold collisions and phenomena related to BEC. This trend continues in that BEC per se is no longer of special interest. Research is moving onward to the study of collective effects in quantum fluids, for example, at the Physics Frontier Center for Ultracold Atoms.
Advances in laser technology also drove increased support in the area of quantum control, including the large Physics Frontiers Centers award to the Frontiers in Optical Coherent and Ultrafast Science (FOCUS) program. Finally, the impetus provided by quantum information science has driven an increase in the number and quality of proposals in optical physics, a trend that has become increasingly manifest in the past 3 years. It also led to enhanced funding through the NSF-wide programs Information Technology Research (ITR) and Nanoscale Science and Engineering (NSE). Support for research in atomic and molecular structure, which is primarily spectroscopy, also dropped over the last decade. The support for research in precision measurements has remained essentially constant. The distribution of funding between experiment and theory varies from year to year, with theory hovering at between 15 and 20 percent of experiment.
As indicated, AMO science is included in NSF ITR and NSE priority areas, though the funding impact has not been large. AMO-related science is also funded through the Divisions of Chemistry and Materials Research in the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences and to some extent also in the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering and the Directorate for Engineering.