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 Atomic and Molecular Physics
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The Atomic and Molecular Physics Group is engaged in a number of different programs that explore new phenomena and provide basic collision data relevant to high electron-temperature plasmas (solar and stellar atmospheres), to cometary atmospheres, and to the interstellar medium.

Other subprograms are: development of miniature mass spectrometers and gas chromatographs for space flight; studying collisions of fast atoms with surface adsorbed atoms and molecules; measurement of electron-atom and electron molecule attachment processes at ultralow electron energies; and detection of trace species, at the parts per trillion level and better, for the electric utility and Homeland Security applications. These subprograms comprise a wide range of collisions processes and energies involving incident electron, ions, and fast neutral species; with use of the expertise gained in charged-particle interactions to the development of miniature mass spectrometers and trace species detectors. In summary, the areas of research are:

  • measuring in highly-charged ions (e.g., O6+, Mg7+, Fe13+) absolute electron-ion excitation cross sections, ion-neutral change exchange cross sections, X-ray emission phenomena, and metastable lifetimes
  • deployment of the miniature quadrupole-array based Trace Gas Analyzer, and the Paul-trap based GC/MS for planetary, Space Station, and Crew Exploration Vehicle needs
  • studying collisions of fast (1-50 eV), ground-state hydrogen and oxygen atoms with cold (4.8K) surface adsorbed molecules to synthesize polyatomic species, and trace the formation of the building blocks of life
  • using laser-rare gas photoionization to study the electronic and vibrational resonances in atoms and molecules at energies in the range 0.05-200 millielectron volts, at 0.1 meV resolution
  • applying the ultralow-energy, s-wave attachment process to measure trace amounts of certain chemical species (explosives, nerve agents, PFTs, PCBs, etc.) at sub parts-per-trillion levels.

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