Molecular quantum technologies

In this project, we are developing a platform to harness the tools of coherent quantum control for molecular systems. The aim is to adapt tools originally developed in the context of quantum information processing and atomic clocks to enable precision-spectroscopic studies of single molecules. This development will open up molecules to unprecedentedly precise spectroscopic investigations, enable the implementation new time standards in the IR domain, provide new resources for quantum information and computation and allow highly precise studies of chemical reactions on the single-molecule level.

Hybrid trapping of cold ions and cold atoms

The recent progress in the cooling of ions, atoms and molecules has enabled the study of collisional and chemical processes at extremely low temperatures in the millikelvin regime. These experiments enable the investigation of the quantum character of collisions and chemical processes, the accurate characterisation of intermolecular interactions and studies of the mechanistical details of chemical reactions with exquisite precision. Experimentally, this is achieved by cooling and storing ions and atoms together in an ion-atom hybrid trap to study cold collisions and reactions between these two species. We are currently extending hybrid trapping techniques to molecular ions and implement chip-based trapping architectures.

Cold ion-molecule hybrid systems

We are developing next-generation hybrid trapping techniques which allow the simultaneous trapping of cold neutral molecules and cold molecular ions. This allows us to study molecular effects and complex chemical reactions at very low temperatures in order to gain deeper insights into the interactions and reaction mechanisms of polyatomic systems. Experimentally, this is achieved by combining beam slowing and magnetic trapping of neutral molecules with the trapping and cooling of molecular ions.

Conformationally controlled chemistry

The relationship between structure and reactivity is one of the central tenets of chemistry. Molecules can exhibit a variety of structural (in particular conformational) isomers which are usually difficult to isolate and study individually. In this project, we spatially separate distinct conformational isomers in a molecular beam by electrostatic deflection in an inhomogeneous electric field. To gain detailed insight into conformational effects of chemical reactions under-single collision conditions, we combine the conformer-selected molecular beams with ion traps and other molecular-beam sources. Our experiments are interpreted with the help of quantum-chemical calculations and atomistic simulations which we perform in collaboration with theory groups in our department.


Controlled laboratory astrochemistry

Gas-phase and grain-surface chemistry in diffuse and dense interstellar clouds drive the formation of hundreds of increasingly complex carbon-bearing molecules from small, single-carbon species. In this project, we investigate how molecular complexity in interstellar space emerges from the reaction of small atomic and molecular fragments. The combined use of electric fields, magnetic fields and laser light enables the precise control of the velocity and quantum state of the reacting species to understand the fundamental reaction dynamics of astrochemical processes. In particular, the spatial separation of molecules in different rotational states by electrostatic deflection allows us to probe the effect of adding a single quantum of rotational excitation on the reaction kinetics and product branching ratios.

Coupling an ultracold ion to a nanomechanical oscillator

Interfacing different quantum systems enables the realisation of new “hybrid" systems which offer new capabilities. In this project, we are implementing a direct mechanical coupling of an ultracold ion to a charged nanowire via the Coulomb interaction. Such an experiment offers promising prospects for fundamental studies exploring the border of classical and quantum mechanics, for applications in mass spectrometry and quantum sensing and as a probe for decoherence processes involving macroscopic bodies.