Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Science: An Investment in the Future

National Research Council
National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. 1994
The report can be obtained in a booklet form. It is a very interesting introduction to our field also for nonspecialists.

The booklet has been reprinted in January 1996.

The booklet is published and copyrighted by:
Copyright (c) 1994 by the National Academy of Sciences.

Parts of the book and its Table of contents were available electronically during 1995-1998.
A capture of these parts (public domain in 1995) is given below. The highlighted parts of the Table of contents
are meant as examples for the students of this course (FYS287, Atomic physics and quantum optics)
in Bergen, Norway

A Basic and enabling science
Areas of Concern
From the Executive Summary
Contents of the book


Increasingly, society is asking for greater accountability from scientists and evidence of a return on its investment in scientific research. Assembled to assess the field of atomic, molecular, and optical (AMO) science in that context, the Panel on Future Opportunities in Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Sciences was charged, among other things, to review advances of the last decade; determine requirements of the field in the context of national needs such as those related to industrial and technological competitiveness, human health and welfare, environment, defense, energy, and education; establish research and educational priorities from various perspectives; and identify scientific forefronts, technological opportunities, and windows of future opportunity.

As demonstrated in this report, AMO science is a diverse field whose impact on national needs and priorities is substantial. The panel estimates that AMO science is an important enabling factor in industries accounting for about 9% of the nation's GNP. Overall, the products of AMO science influence over 20% of the GNP (data from "U.S. Industrial Outlook 92: Business Forecasts for 350 Industries", International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1992).

Indeed, the field is so broad and intersects so many other fields of science and engineering that comprehensive coverage is impractical. For the purposes of this report, a circumscribed definition of the field has been adopted. Developing a general rule to limit coverage has not been easy, and occasionally the panel has put aside the rule to better inform the reader of the applications and impacts of AMO science.

Atomic science encompasses the study of atoms and their ions, including their structure and properties; optical interactions; and collisions and interactions with electrons, external fields, and solids and surfaces. It is the test bed for the most fundamental laws of science. Topics of interest include fundamental laws and symmetries; cavity electrodynamics; transient states of atomic systems and collision dynamics; highly perturbed atoms; cooling and trapping; atom interferometry; and interactions with surfaces.

Molecular science is also a diverse field that spans a broad range of research areas and applications, including most of chemistry and significant portions of biology. To narrow the focus for purposes of this report, the panel defines molecular science as the study of molecules, clusters, and molecular ions, including their structure and properties, optical interactions, collisions, and interactions with electrons, external fields, and solids and surfaces. The report emphasizes, in particular, molecular interactions at the quantum state resolved level; ultrafast phenomena in molecules; clusters and molecular aggregates; and interactions with surfaces. All areas can point to important accomplishments with broad impacts, and, characteristic of AMO science, they interact strongly with each other.

Optical science has become an integral part of many disciplines, ranging from biology to astronomy, and has found application in key economic segments from medicine to telecommunications. However, it is not possible to cover all the diverse aspects of the optical sciences in a report that also covers atomic and molecular science. Because one of the key advances in this century has been the invention of the laser, the panel limits this report to those optical science areas that are closely related to the laser and its applications. These areas have been the subject of the International Quantum Electronics Conferences (IQEC) since they began in 1967 and, more recently, the Quantum Electronics and Laser Science Conferences (QELS), which have been held yearly since 1989. Hence, this report focuses on the topics that are within the purview of these conferences and adopts a definition of optical science that includes only the following subjects: laser spectroscopy; nonlinear optical phenomena; quantum optics; optical interactions with condensed matter; ultrafast optics; and coherent light sources.

Although this definition provides a focus for this report and encompasses many of the exciting topics in this field, it does not include many equally important areas of optical science. In what might be called classical optics, for example, advances in the design of lenses for lithography have been essential to improvements in integrated circuit technology. Indeed, optical instruments of all kinds are routinely used in virtually every aspect of modern life. Many other areas of optics, including vision, imaging science, atmospheric optics, and binary optics, are also not considered here. These areas would be more appropriately addressed in a broader study of optical science and engineering.

The focus of the study and this report is on basic, or in-depth, research, whether supported with a strategic objective in mind or simply because of its intellectual excitement. Some of the examples chosen by the panel include applied research and development in order to show the ultimate application of AMO science in a variety of areas and to demonstrate that basic research was a necessary precursor of these applications. Thus, making a precise distinction between basic and applied research in each case is not important.

The study focuses on advances and opportunities in AMO science and its applications to national needs; human resources and funding in the field; recommendations, including priorities; and the results of a survey of the AMO science community. The report also briefly discusses the infrastructure in which AMO science is conducted and makes limited comparisons with efforts in other countries.
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AMO science is simultaneously a basic and an enabling science that answers questions about the behavior of matter and energy in atomic and molecular systems that we can precisely probe, control, and manipulate. It focuses on the common building blocks of the world around us, that is, atoms, molecules, and light, and on phenomena that occur in the ranges of temperature and energy that are characteristic of daily human activities.

As a basic science, AMO research provides answers to fundamental questions about the physical world and accurate tests of basic physical theories such as quantum electrodynamics, quantum measurement, relativity, electroweak interaction, time-reversal, and the invariance of the combined operations of charge conjugation, parity inversion, and time reversal (CPT).

In its enabling role, AMO science has, throughout its extensive history, contributed to the technological strength and knowledge base of the nation. In recent years, the field has continued to grow in excitement and activity, fueled by the discovery of new phenomena and the widespread practical application of the science, all of which have been facilitated by the development of new experimental, theoretical, and computational tools.

The rapid pace of new discoveries and developments in AMO science can be attributed to the continued invention and implementation of new techniques to control and manipulate atoms, molecules, and light and to generate light with well- defined characteristics. These, in turn, permit new measurements of natural phenomena. The theme of control, manipulation, and measurement that so well characterizes AMO science underscores the impact of the field, because these capabilities have important applications in all branches of science, engineering, and technology. The world's most accurate measurements occur in AMO science, because time and frequency, which are the most accurately measurable physical quantities, fall primarily in the AMO domain. The quest of AMO scientists for improved measurement techniques and accuracy has resulted in inventive new instrumentation, including new sources of light, and technologies that find application in areas ranging from industrial manufacturing, new materials, and processing to medicine and environmental monitoring.

Understanding global change and the impact of human activities on the environment requires reliable models of chemical and physical response of the atmosphere to radiation from the sun that are based on AMO science and utilize the basic information about the properties and behavior of atoms, ions, and molecules as they interact with light and with one another in the atmosphere or hydrosphere. Laser techniques, including laser-radar (LIDAR), are employed for testing as well as providing empirical data for the models. Laser technology is used to monitor emissions, effluent, and toxic waste environments.

Communications technology has, in the past two decades, been revolutionized through the use of fiber optics. Indeed, the vision of what lies ahead in this area is so expansive that one may say that the revolution has just begun. The improvement in the quality of optical fibers and the discovery, development, and application of the semiconductor diode laser have been a joint triumph of solid-state, AMO, and materials science. Almost invisible to the user, this technology allows the inexpensive delivery of information for government, commerce, industry, and academe over great distances, at high speeds, and in large volume. Future advances in AMO science and technology will allow even greater fiber bandwidth and flexibility of network connection, resulting in "on-demand" access to a vast, worldwide storehouse of information, including high- resolution video.

In computer technology, AMO science has had an impact through the optical storage of information on CD-ROMs and the computer-to-computer links provided by fiber optics. In the future, it is likely that optics, because of its speed, freedom from interference, and design advantages, will play an important role inside computers, by providing links from circuit board to circuit board and from chip to chip. In the commercial marketplace, CD laser music players and laser video disks as well as supermarket laser checkout devices have, in only a few years, become commonplace in our lives.

Medical science and technology have benefited from AMO science in a variety of ways. Molecular physics and chemistry have traditionally played an important role in the understanding of chemical bonding, biomolecular structures, and the dynamics of energy transfer in biological molecules. Supporting this role are tools provided by AMO science, such as excitation, Raman, and ultrafast (short time duration) spectroscopy. Ultrafast optical spectroscopy techniques developed in the last 20 years have begun to unravel primary photophysical events in biological systems. They have probed visual pigment isomerization, electron transfer at the photosynthetic reaction center, and ligand binding in hemoglobin. All of these measurements address questions at the heart of molecular biology. Looking ahead, it has been found recently that buckminsterfullerene (C60) molecules, or buckyballs, a recent discovery of AMO science, neutralize a large area of the HIV virus, thus introducing the possibility that this new particle may help in the battle against AIDS.

Medicine also has benefited from AMO science in terms of the application of image science and technology to visualization of the body and its diseases and the use of laser radiation as a tool to modify microscopic cells and macroscopic tissue. In the latter area, laser radiation has been used to clear coronary arteries and break up kidney and gall bladder stones, and for retinal welding, corneal sculpting, and photochemical release of oxygen from chromophores attached to cancer cells. When combined with optical fibers, lasers allow minimally invasive surgery with smaller incisions that result in less danger and quicker recovery. Laser radiation has several uses in clinical practice, while other promising uses require further research and clinical trials.

Technologies arising from AMO science promise to improve the safety, speed, and efficiency of transportation systems. In aviation, AMO science is contributing to the development of systems to detect wind shear/clear air turbulence and wake vortices. The Global Positioning System (GPS), which is based on atomic clocks, is an important practical application of AMO science. Developed originally for the military, inexpensive commercial receivers are now becoming readily available, allowing the technology to be used for commercial and recreational purposes.
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Impact of AMO Science

 * AMO science, a rapidly evolving basic science and a powerful "enabling"
   science, contributes to the fundamental knowledge base and supports
   important areas of science, engineering, technology, and applications.

 * The nation's investments in AMO science research and education have yielded
   substantial economic benefits. The panel estimates that AMO science, through
   its applications to manufacturing, information technology and
   communications, semiconductors, and other commercial sectors, is an
   important enabling factor in industries accounting for about 9{\%} of the
   nation's GNP. Overall, the products of AMO science influence over 20{\%} of
   the GNP.

 * AMO science is diverse, and the base of scientific knowledge, methods, and
   technologies it provides plays a critical role in many areas of science and
   technology, including applications to industrial and information technology,
   energy and environment, health, space technology, defense, and

 * AMO science has much to contribute to the federal strategic initiatives,
   including those related to advanced materials and processing; advanced
   manufacturing technology; global change research; high-performance
   computing and communications; science, mathematics, engineering, and
   technology education; and biotechnology research.

 * Measurement techniques, sensors, and instrumentation based on AMO science
   are a central component of advanced manufacturing processes and contribute
   significantly to enhanced industrial output. They are also important to
   environmental monitoring, pollution control, and medical diagnostics and

 * Students educated and trained in AMO science acquire a broad range of
   knowledge and skills and are valuable contributors to many areas of science
   and technology. They are employed by industries that have contributed
   significantly to recent economic growth in the United States and that are
   likely to be important to sustain its economic health.

Character of the Field

 * AMO scientists use experimental, theoretical, and computational methods to
   study matter at the atomic level. Their activities involve the control and
   manipulation of atoms, molecules, charged particles, and light, the
   measurement and calculation of their properties, and the generation of light
   with well-defined characteristics with the overall objective of understanding
   the structure and dynamics of atoms, ions, molecules, and light and the nature
   of their interactions.

 * AMO science is "small" science and is most often carried out by principal
   investigators and their co-workers in small groups, frequently in
   collaboration with other scientists and engineers. This scale of research has
   proved to be an excellent vehicle for creative and innovative science and has
   spawned notable achievements in the field. Clustering of small groups at
   centers and special facilities is sometimes necessary for interdisciplinary
   research and research needing special facilities that, for cost or other reasons,
   are difficult to duplicate.

 * AMO science in universities and colleges and in government laboratories
   receives support from a range of federal agencies, reflecting the breadth and
   diversity of the field. Its advancement has been facilitated by the use of merit
   review to identify and fund the best research projects, resulting in a U.S.
   program that is, in many areas, the strongest in the world.

 * AMO science is funded at substantial levels in federal research and
   development laboratories supported by DOE, DOD, the National Aeronautics
   and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Institute of Standards
   and Technology (NIST) and in industry. The AMO scientists in these
   laboratories, their knowledge and skills, and their experimental and
   computational facilities are a vital component of the national AMO science

 * Several federal agencies have recognized the need to maintain a healthy AMO
   community and the importance of basic AMO research to mission objectives.
   This has resulted in a balanced AMO national program that has a tradition of
   innovative research, that has achieved a broad and impressive range of
   strategic goals, and that has trained many highly qualified young scientists.

 * The panel found a strong belief among researchers familiar with foreign
   laboratories that the United States is falling behind in the quality of
   instrumentation in its academic research laboratories. Workers in the field
   indicated that updating of capital equipment continues to be a high priority.

 * AMO science engages about 6,000 to 7,000 active PhD researchers. This
   number has remained essentially constant over the past decade, although there
   has been a redistribution of AMO scientists among areas of specialty, with
   many more scientists working in optical science than in the past. This shift is
   in part a response to industrial needs. The overall level of activity is adequate
   to sustain a strong and dynamic program, and there appear to be no
   compelling reasons for change in the immediate future.
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Areas of Concern

 * Substantial support for basic AMO scientific research has come from DOD
   and defense areas of DOE. Despite the demonstrated application of the fruits
   of AMO research in areas such as medicine, environment, transportation, and
   commerce, there is a danger that the shift in federal funding from defense
   could result in serious erosion of basic research in AMO science.

 * Industrial and federally funded laboratories have been an important
   component of the U.S. research effort in AMO science. Several of these
   laboratories at this time are undergoing major reorganizations and reductions
   that could be seriously detrimental to the U.S. program in AMO science.

 * Many important practical applications of AMO science in areas such as
   remote sensing, atmospheric science and fossil fuel combustion, plasma
   processing, and medical diagnostics require a database of accurate quantitative
   measurements and calculations of atomic, molecular, and optical properties.
   Support for such essential core work in AMO science can be negatively
   affected in times of limited funding by pressure to support research in more
   exotic areas.


The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.

This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.

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From the Executive Summary

At this time of great change in the world, it is appropriate to assess the value of the nation's investment in basic science research and education. Today it is all the more important that science and the technology it produces contribute to solving society's problems and that the role of science and technology be understood. The challenge in developing a national science research and education strategy is to select and enhance the areas of basic research that constitute the wisest investment of the nation's resources for long-term as well as immediate benefits.

This report describes the results of a study commissioned by the National Research Council to assess the field of atomic, molecular, and optical (AMO) science "not only in the context of the intellectual challenges of AMO science, but also in the context of national needs".

AMO science focuses on the properties of the common building blocks of the world around us-namely, atoms, molecules, and light-and on phenomena that occur in the ranges of temperature and energy that are characteristic of daily human activities. It is both an intellectually stimulating basic science and a powerful "enabling" science that supports many other important areas of science and technology. It is a key component of several of the federal strategic Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering, and Technology (FCCSET) initiatives. The enabling aspect of AMO science derives from efforts to control and manipulate atoms, molecules, charged particles, and light more precisely; to accurately measure and calculate their properties; and to invent new ways to generate light with specific properties.

Federal funding of grants and contracts for basic research in AMO science in the United States amounts to somewhat over $100M per year, provided primarily by the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, and Department of Defense. If support provided by U.S. industry and through U.S. federal research and development laboratories is included, the total funding for AMO science in this country approaches $ 1B per year. The return on this investment is substantial. The panel estimates that AMO science is an important enabling factor in industries accounting for about 9% of the nation's GNP. Overall, the products of AMO science influence over 20U.S. Industrial Outlook 92: Business Forecasts for 350 Industries, International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1992).

Despite its impact, AMO science is a "small" science. That is, it is dominated by the work of single investigators or small groups. This mode of research has proved to be an effective vehicle for creative and innovative science and has resulted in many notable discoveries. Students who graduate with backgrounds in AMO science acquire a broad range of knowledge and skills and are valuable contributors to many areas of science and technology.

The report highlights recent advances and discoveries in AMO science. Through examples, it illustrates many areas of application, including industrial technology, manufacturing, and processing; information technology, high-performance computing, and communications; energy; global change; defense; health and medical technology; space technology; and transportation.

Three case studies -"Lasers", "Manipulating Atoms", and "Buckyballs and Carbon Nanotechnology"-are included that show different stages in the transfer of basic scientific knowledge and technologies to direct applications and marketable products. The special role of AMO-science-based measurement techniques, instrumentation, and sensors in the nation's manufacturing industries is also discussed. Funding, research infrastructure, and education and human resources are also addressed.

First, the panel recommends a pattern of support that maintains and enhances responsiveness of AMO science to national needs by ensuring the healthy diversity of the field and the strength of the core research.

Second, the panel recommends research into highly promising new technologies for the control and manipulation of atoms, molecules, charged particles, and light.

Third, the panel recommends research into new and improved lasers and other advanced light sources. Specific priorities with regard to different national goals and needs-such as those related to industrial technology, manufacturing, and processing; information technology, high-performance computing, and communications; energy; global change; defense; health and medical technology; space technology; and transportation-can best be identified by agencies and advisory bodies addressing these specific goals and needs.
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Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Science: An Investment in the Future



 * Introduction
 * A Basic and Enabling Science
 * Benefits of AMO Science
 * Highlights of Scientific Advances
 * The Scope and Support of AMO Science: The Core Program
 * Findings and Recommendations
    * Findings
       * Impact of AMO Science
       * Character of the Field
       * Areas of Concern
    * Recommendations
       * Recommendations on Priorities
       * Recommendations for the First Priority
       * General Recommendations


    * Lasers: From Basic Research to New Technologies and New Industries
    * Manipulating Atoms: New Technology for Today and Tomorrow
       * Laser Trapping and Cooling of Atoms and Ions: Particle
       * Optical Tweezers and the Biosciences
    * Buckyballs and Carbon Nanotechnology: Surprising New Materials
      from Small Science


    * The Nation's Scientific Knowledge Base
       * Recent Discoveries and Future Opportunities in AMO Science
          * Fundamental Laws and Symmetries
          * Cavity Electrodynamics and Micromasers
          * Highly Perturbed Atoms in Intense Laser and
            Microwave Fields
          * Transient States of Atomic Systems and Collision
          * New Insights to Molecular Dynamics
          * Clusters
          * Physics of Nonlinear Optics
          * Laser Cooling and Trapping
          * Interactions with Surfaces
       * Enabling Other Fields of Science
          * Astrophysics
          * Space Science
          * Atmospheric and Environmental Science
          * Plasma Physics
          * Exotic Atoms and Nuclear Physics
          * Surface and Condensed Matter Physics
          * Biosciences--Mapping the Human Genome
    * The Nation's Measurement Technology
       * Measurement Standards
       * Measurement and Instrumentation
       * AMO in Measurement and Sensing for Industry
    * The Nation's Technological Infrastructure and U.S. Economic
      Productivity, Competitive Position, and Security
       * Industrial Technology, Manufacturing, and Processing
          * Lasers in Manufacturing
          * Plasma Processing of Materials
          * Chemical Manufacturing
       * Information Technology, High-Performance Computing, and
          * The Erbium-Doped Fiber-Optic Amplifier
          * Optical Data Storage
       * Energy
          * Energy Production
          * Efficient Use of Energy
    * Global Change
    * Defense
       * Weapons Systems and Delivery
       * Remote Sensing
       * Countermeasures
       * C^3 -- Communication, Command, and Control
    * Health And Medical Technology
       * Medicine
       * Radiation and Health Physics
       * Design of Bioactive Molecules (Pharmaceuticals)
    * Space Technology
       * Measurement and Sensing
       * Spacecraft Navigation and Communication
    * Transportation
       * Aviation
       * Ground Transportation

    * Science Education
       * K-12 Education
       * Undergraduate and Graduate Education
    * Human Resources in AMO Science
       * Present Situation
       * PhD Production and Initial Employment
       * Future Needs

    * Resources
       * Federal Funding for Research in AMO Science
          * National Science Foundation
          * Department of Energy
          * Department of Defense Research Offices
          * National Aeronautics and Space Administration
          * Total Funding from Federal Grants and Contracts
       * Federal Laboratories
          * National Institute of Standards and Technology
          * Department of Energy Laboratories
          * Department of Defense Laboratories
    * Infrastructure and Facilities
       * The Single Investigator
       * Centers and Institutes
       * User Facilities
       * National Laboratories
       * Other Infrastructure Issues
          * Evolution of Subfields
          * Theory
          * Instrumentation
          * Academic Culture
          * Postdoctoral Associates/Researchers and PhD
          * Communication and Organization




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Converted to HTML Mon Aug 26 02:24:28 METDST 1996; Edited and combined into the present page: Sept 4th, 2002

A Basic and enabling science
Areas of Concern
From the Executive Summary
Contents of the book

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