Physics at Virginia

Cass Sackett

Ph.D., 1998, Rice
Director of Undergraduate Studies

Experimental Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics

Research Interests

Since its first observation in 1995, the process of Bose-Einstein condensation of atomic gases has captured the imagination of many physicists. In this phenomenon, a large number of atoms come to occupy the same quantum state, causing the normally ethereal wave function to act rather as a classical, observable wave. Our research is focused on developing practical applications for these condensates. In particular, we are developing condensate interferometry, in which the atom wave is coherently separated into pieces which are later recombined. The result of the recombination depends sensitively on the surrounding environment, meaning that it can be used as a sensor for measuring inertial effects like gravity or rotation, and electromagnetic effects like fields or atomic interactions.

Our interferometer uses atoms confined in a magnetic trap, which allows interaction times of up to one second and wave-packet separations of up to half a millimeter. These are very large scales for atomic phenomena, and they illustrate the unusual behavior of quantum system on a macroscopic scale. Current projects include high-precision measurements of gravity, rotation, and atomic polarizability. Longer term goals include studying atom-surface interactions and development of techniques to use entangled states to improve measurement precision.

Selected Publications

O. Garcia, B. Deissler, K.J. Hughes, J.M. Reeves and C.A. Sackett, “Bose-Einstein condensate interferometer with macroscopic arm separation”, Physical Review A 74, 031601(R) (2006).

K.J. Hughes, J.H.T. Burke, and C.A. Sackett, “Suspension of Atoms Using Optical Pulses, and Application to Gravimetry”, Physical Review Letters 102, 150403 (2009).

J.H.T. Burke and C.A. Sackett, “Scalable Bose-Einstein-condensate Sagnac interferometer in a linear trap”, Physical Review A 80, 061603(R) (2009).

News Items

Congratulations to UVa Physics Professor Cass Sackett and colleagues, who have published a paper in the journal Nature in which they describe recent results at the Cold Atom Lab onboard the ......More >
Cass Sackett was interviewed by Scientific American about a recent study where scientists achieved several seconds of microgravity by dropping ultracold atoms from a nearly 150-meter high ......More >
Cass Sackett is a principal investigator and science team member in the NASA Cold Atom Lab project, in which ultra-cold atoms are produced and studied on the International Space Station. A ......More >
From UVAToday: On UVA’s Instagram account, we asked students about their favorite fall-semester courses. Submissions poured in with students highlighting engaging ......More >
UVa Physics professor Cass Sackett is testing gravity and quantum mechanics in space using the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL), a device aboard the International Space Station.  His work is ......More >
From UVA Today: It is said that what goes up must come down. Thank gravity for that. But sometimes gravitational effects affect matter on Earth in ways that physicists ......More >
Cass Sackett wrote a Viewpoint, "Cool Physics with Warm Ions", for Physics, an American Physical Society site that provides daily on-line ......More >