Atomic and molecular interactions (Dr Andrew Murray)
Atomic physics at Manchester has a long tradition dating back to Rutherford and Bohr, who developed many of the original ideas concerning the structure of the atom. The key methods we now adopt to study atoms use collisions with low energy electrons and probe, excite, ionize and cool atoms using very high resolution laser radiation. Through its collaboration with the Photon Science Institute, the Manchester atomic physics group is able to use some of the most sophisticated lasers in the world for its work.
All our spectrometers are designed and built by group members, in close collaboration with the excellent technicians in the school. As such, researchers in the group have gained expertise in a wide range of subjects, from the design of components through to the building of cutting edge electron detectors and sources. Work is carried out in five large systems, where we study electron impact ionization and excitation in combination with lasers, as well as atom cooling and trapping. In the apparatus shown above, highly excited atoms collide with electrons and are caught in an ‘atom trap’ built by our group. In collaboration with the Cockcroft Institute, we also produce cold electrons for use in future accelerators. Our research is fundamental in nature, and we publish extensively in the most respected physics journals, including Nature and Physical Review Letters.