At Tanya Zelevinsky’s lab at Columbia, our current effort focuses on characterizing the strontium molecule with the goal to develop an ultra-precise molecular clock---similar to better-known atomic optical clocks---with unique sensitivity to the fundamental constants of nature such as the gravitational constant G and the electron-to-proton mass ratio. Through precision measurements, one may investigate fundamental problems that are otherwise studied in high-energy (accelerator) research and astrophysical observations.
The implementation of a molecular clock relies on detailed knowledge of the Sr2 molecule. Studies of photodissociation, combined with spectroscopic data, have helped develop a state-of-the-art quantum chemistry model. The predictive value of the model is tested against experimental photodissociation data with remarkable complexity. The model faithfully reproduces the photofragment distributions and helps illuminate a quantum-to-classical crossover in dissociation dynamics.
We have demonstrated the operation of a molecular clock by coherently transferring molecules from a shallow bound state to near the bottom of the molecular potential. Using a magic wavelength technique, we have improved transition quality by 3.5 orders of magnitude, projecting a clock accuracy better than 10-14.