Brian Odom

Brian Odom
Assistant Professor
PhD, Harvard University, 2004

Sloan Research Fellow

Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator
David and Lucille Packard Fellow
NSF Faculty Early Career Development Award

Odom Research Page

Professor Odom's research is focused on experiments on trapped molecular ions cooled to mK temperatures, via their Coulomb interaction with laser-cooled atomic ions.  While production of cold atoms is routine, technology to obtain sub-Kelvin molecules is very new.  The technique of molecular ion sympathetic cooling opens up a number of exciting possibilities, with applications ranging from fundamental high-energy physics to low-temperature chemistry.

1.  Time variation of fundamental "constants" is generally expected in many extensions of the Standard Model.  There is currently one claim of evidence for variation of the electron-proton mass ratio (μ) on cosmic time scales, making improved laboratory searches quite interesting.  Limitations of traditional molecular spectroscopy, as compared with atomic spectroscopy, have created a situation where laboratory sensitivity to a changing μ is orders of magnitude worse than sensitivity to a changing fine structure constant α.  Precision spectroscopy of mK molecular ions will allow substantial improvements in laboratory sensitivity to time variation of μ, reaching or surpassing the astrophysically interesting level.

2.  Chiral molecules with right- and left-handed configurations are normally assumed to be mirror images of one another.  However, the weak nuclear force induces a small parity-violating effect which should cause right- and left-handed molecules to vibrate at slightly different fundamental frequencies.  A first observation of this effect could be made with mK trapped molecular ions, and precise measurements would probe for new physics, such as an energy-dependence of the weak mixing angle.

3.  Sub-Kelvin chemical reactions between molecular ions and neutral species are predicted to exhibit interesting quantum effects, including reaction cross-sections which depend strongly on the internal molecular state.  To date, studies of such reactions in molecular beams have been limited to temperatures above a few Kelvin.  Sympathetic cooling of molecular ions to ~10 mK opens up another two orders of magnitude in temperature, over which inelastic collisions can for the first time be explored.

Selected Publications

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August 26, 2013