Optical Physics

Optical physics concentrates on the inspection, manipulation and control of electromagnetic radiation in relation to matter, focusing on the discovery and application of new phenomena. Optical physicists use and develop light sources that span the electromagnetic spectrum from microwaves to X-rays. The realms of study here at OSC include the following:

  • atomic clocks
  • atom optics
  • Bose-Einstein condensation 
  • high-harmonic generation
  • laser cooling and trapping
  • nonlinear optics
  • quantized vortices
  • quantum control
  • quantum entanglement
  • quantum optics
  • quantum, semiconductor and meta-optics
  • ultrafast optics

Optical Physics Faculty

Anderson's research involves the study of quantum fluid dynamics and quantum turbulence in dilute-gas Bose-Einstein condensates, or BECs. These tiny droplets of superfluid are the coldest known objects in the universe and are created using laser cooling and atom trapping techniques. They also provide a unique and versatile medium for the experiments of quantum fluid dynamics in Anderson’s lab at the College of Optical Sciences. In a superfluid such as a BEC, microscopic centers of fluid circulation called quantized vortices may be observed using optical techniques and are conspicuous indicators of the system’s superfluid dynamics. By studying the way vortices are generated and how they move and interact, a wide range of general physical phenomena well beyond Bose-Einstein condensation may be better understood. Examples include phase transition dynamics, turbulence, reduced-dimensional quantum physics and the dynamics of quantum systems far from equilibrium.

Anderson was a member of the research team that first created and observed quantized vortices in BECs in 1999, and since then has been primarily involved in experimental, numerical and theoretical studies of vortex creation, manipulation and dynamics in BECs. Current efforts in his laboratory focus on:

  1. developing new methods for vortex generation and manipulation with laser beams for controlled studies of vortex dynamics,
  2. studying the dynamics and statistics of vortices of two-dimensional quantum turbulence and
  3. development of new methods for studying and observing vortices in BECs.

The main research focus in our group is on theoretical investigations of the optical properties of semiconductor structures. Our fundamental theoretical investigations of semiconductors are based on microscopic quantum-mechanical many-body theories and include ultrafast nonlinear optical processes in bulk semiconductors and quantum-well structures. Recent examples of research projects include electromagnetically-induced transparency, slow light effects in semiconductor heterostructures, nonlinear spectroscopy and applications of Bragg-spaced multiple quantum wells, optical refrigeration of semiconductors, optical four-wave mixing instabilities in semiconductor quantum wells systems, including microcavities, and excitonic response of semiconductor nanomembranes. In addition to the semiconductor research, we are investigating optical refrigeration in optical fibers.

Semiconductor cavity QED is the main research theme of our group. We are using single quantum dots instead of atoms as in atomic QED and nanocavities. Our group was the first to observe vacuum Rabi splitting between a single InAs quantum dot and a GaAs photonic crystal slab nanocavity; Nature 432, 200 (2004) had 851 citations as of July 14, 2012. At present we are focused on coupling between a quantum dot or quantum well with metallic nanocavities having much smaller volumes than the dielectric 2-D photonic crystal slab nanocavity. We are also investigating atomic layer deposition of Er onto 1-D photonic crystal silicon nanobeams to bring light sources into silicon for our NSF ERC Center for Integrated Access Networks.

  • Meinel 664: Low-temperature high-spatial-resolution cw spectroscopy laboratory. Includes cw Ti:Sa laser, low-temperature Cryovac cryostat with internal nano-positioners, 1.26 m Spex spectrometer and 512 linear InGaAs detector array. Used to study light-semiconductor coupling, both photonic crystal nanocavity with single quantum dot and metallic nanoantennae with single quantum wire or dot.
  • Meinel 670: MBE growth characterization laboratory. Includes atomic force microscope, broadband linear transmission and reflection setup, and fiber loop for measuring the quality factor of nanobeam cavities.
  • Meinel 676: Femtosecond pump-probe spectroscopy laboratory. Includes our fs Ti:Sa laser, an Oxford low-temperature cryostat, various spectrometers and detectors, and a streak camera. Photoluminescence and nonlinear pump-probe measurements on a wide variety of MBE grown heterostructures are studied.
  • Meinel 678: MBE machine for growing microcavities, quantum wells, wires, dots on GaAs or InP substrates.

My research is theoretical and computational in nature and is in the general area of optical physics. Recent research highlights include propagation of light strings in gases, theory and simulation of high-harmonic generation in optical cavities, and proposal of an optical spring mirror for quantum optomechanics.