The strength of Purdue's Department of Physics is its internationally recognized research in the areas of astrophysics, condensed-matter physics, high energy physics, geophysics, nanophysics, nuclear physics, sensor technology, biophysics, AMO (atomic, molecular, and optical) physics, and more. The Department of Physics and Astronomy strives to involve students in research on all the scales of nature so they can develop into the next generation of scientists who can understand and communicate the beauty and mystery of the world that we live in.
Atomic, Molecular, and Optical (AMO) Physics is one of the burgeoning areas in the landscape of experimental and theoretical physics. This field is concerned with understanding basic phenomena ranging from the few-body to the many-body level. Included are processes such as chemical reactions of small molecules at ultracold temperatures, where the field begins to merge with the sister subject of chemical physics, and the behavior of quantum gases such as Bose-Einstein condensates and degenerate Fermi gases as well as Bose-Fermi mixtures, which connects with modern day condensed-matter physics. AMO Physics also connects deeply with recent efforts worldwide in the subject of quantum information and computing, as well as the quantum teleportation and encryption of information. The physics of ultrafast laser pulses lasting less than 10-15 seconds, and the use of such pulses to control the behavior of quantum atomic and molecular systems, is another of these stimulating areas, ripe for new explorations.
The participation of the Purdue Physics Department in this dynamic subfield is presently in a growth phase, for both theory and experiment. One of the most exciting possibilities that is pervasive in nearly all aspects of AMO Physics is the idea of controlling the forces in any system through the clever application of external electromagnetic fields.
At the smallest sub-atomic scales (10-15 meters) Purdue faculty are unraveling the structure of matter using some of the most powerful particle accelerators created by man at Fermilab in Batavia, Il, CERN in Europe, and the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) in New York. The high energy particle physics group is engaged in experiments at the high energy and short distance frontiers in experiments such as CDF at Fermilab and CLEO/CLEO-C at Cornell and preparations for the next generation experiment, CMS, at the Large Hadron Collider. These experiments involve probing the properties of heavy quarks and leptons and the search for new phenomena. Members of the high energy nuclear physics group are studying the deconfined state of matter known as the quark-gluon plasma, created in collisions between relativistic heavy nuclei.
Our Purdue facilities, which include clean rooms for the development and fabrication of microstructure silicon and gas detectors, are among the best in the nation. The blend of sophisticated design and fabrication of detectors, together with the analysis of frontier physics provide an ideal education for students.
At the nano-to-micron scale (10-9 - 10-6 meters), physics department faculty and students are studying the properties of diverse systems such as the single electron transistor, small ensembles of matter and the electronic properties of macroscopic materials. In addition, there is an active research program that focuses on biological systems. Current experimental investigations include the dynamics of the heme group, photosynthetic systems using pico-second and femto-second pump-probe techniques, and computational studies of the electronic structure and mesoscopic properties of bio-molecular nanostructures.
At the "everyday" scale (10-3 - 103 meters) faculty are probing the workings of gravity, "flying through" tumors, characterizing percolation in soil and rocks, and determining the ages of geological features. The Purdue Rare Isotope Measurement Laboratory (PRIME Lab) is one of only a few facilities in the nation capable of measuring very low concentrations of the natural and man-made radio-nuclides 10Be, 14C, 26Al, 36Cl, 41Ca and 129I, using accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS). Although the instruments and detection methods are those of nuclear physics, research applications are concentrated in the Earth sciences and biomedical sciences. An example is research directed at combating osteoporosis, a disease characterized by decreased skeletal mass and increased susceptibility to bone fractures. We are investigating the use of soy isoflavones as an alternative to estrogen replacement therapy by administering these supplements with 41Ca and then monitoring 41Ca excreted in the urine.
At the largest scales, the astronomical scale (1012 - 1026 meters), researchers are pursuing the answers to questions concerning the death of stars, the workings of galaxies and the super-massive black holes that power them, to the very basics of how the Universe was born and what is its ultimate fate. The astrophysics group conducts research of astrophysical objects using a multi-wavelength approach. Current research includes the use of radio-telescopes, space-based telescopes, and land-based gamma-ray telescopes located in Arizona.
An exciting new development in the Department of Physics and Astronomy is its selection, in partnership with ITaP (Information Technology at Purdue University) to build and operate a so-called "Tier-2 center". Tier-2 centers are at the core of empowering US universities to perform physics analysis at the LHC (Large Hadron Collider). The LHC, currently under construction at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research located near Geneva, Switzerland, is the largest scientific instrument on the planet.
The Purdue University Research Expertise database (PURE) is now the Indiana Database for University Research Expertise (INDURE)! With this tool, you can search for research expertise, intellectual property, anad ongoing sponsored research projects at academic institutions across the state of Indiana. By entering relevant keywords, or alternatively using a simple navigation mechanism you can find Indiana faculty by specifying fields of study. For example, if you're looking for researchers in bioinformatics, you will find more than seventy Indiana faculty members with expertise in bioinformatics. Visit the database to identify Purdue researchers by keywords or fields of interest.