The St. Mary’s College of Maryland physics department has been the recipient of several grants from the Office of Naval Research (ONR), each helping to build the small but talented group of faculty and students who work and learn in the department. The strong research partnership between the St. Mary’s physics department and the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) is key to the success of research in and development of physics technologies.
Most recently (May 2012), ONR awarded the St. Mary’s atomic physics research group in the department of physics a $270,000 grant, which will be used over three years to fund an ongoing study, led by Professor Josh Grossman (Professor Charles Adler participates) and Dr. Frank Narducci of NAWCAD, of miniaturization of atom traps. The study investigates bichromatic forces, an enhanced form of laser cooling and trapping of neutral atomic gases, which may be applied to develop new sensors, atomic clocks, and quantum computers. All of these technologies have applications in the Navy and beyond. The grant supports summer research intern students, equipment costs, and the sabbatical salaries to allow designated faculty members to focus on the research. The Office of Naval Research awarded a grant of $180,000 to the atomic physics research group in 2009 for similar research. Nine summer research students and three senior research projects were supported by that grant. NAWCAD received companion grants valued at $300,000 as part of the joint partnership with St. Mary’s College.
The Defense University Research Instrumentation Program of the Office of Naval Research also awarded a $245,000 grant to the atomic physics research group in 2009 for research that is still ongoing. The grant pays for research equipment for two projects: most notably, the study of trapping individual cold atoms above the surface of a microchip. This technology may be applied to construct a quantum computer. Research for this project takes place entirely in on-campus labs. The grant also supports equipment for the bichromatic force research funded by the other two ONR grants. This work by St. Mary’s faculty, students, and NAWCAD staff takes place in the Atomic Physics & Optical Research Labs at Patuxent River Naval Air Station.