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Atomic and Molecular Physics: Course Outline

Atomic, molecular, and optical physics (AMO) is the study of matter-matter and light-matter interactions; at the scale of one or a few atoms and energy scales around several electron volts. :1356. The three areas are closely interrelated.

Course Outline

  • The concept of the atom.
  • Historical development.
  • Experimental and theoretical proofs for the existence of atoms.
  • Dalton’s law of constant proportions.
  • The law of Gay-Lussac and the definition of the mole.
  • Experimental methods for the determination of Avogadro’s constant.
  • The importance of kinetic gas theory for the concept of atoms.
  • Can one see atoms?
  • Brownian motion.
  • Cloud chamber.
  • Microscopes with atomic resolution.
  • The size of atoms.
  • The size of atoms in the Van Der Waals equation.
  • Atomic size estimation from transport Coefficients.
  • atomic volumes from x-ray diffraction.
  • Comparison of the different methods.
  • The electric structure of atoms.
  • Cathode rays and kanalstrahlen.
  • Measurement of the elementary charge e.
  • How to produce free electrons.
  • Generation of free ions.
  • The mass of the electron.
  • How neutral is the atom.
  • Electron and ion optics.
  • Refraction of electron beams.
  • Electron optics in axially symmetric fields.
  • Electrostatic electron lenses.
  • Magnetic lenses.
  • Applications of electron and ion optics.
  • Atomic masses and mass spectrometers.
  • Thomson’s parabola spectrograph.
  • Velocity-independent focusing.
  • Focusing of ions with different angles of incidence.
  • Mass spectrometer with double focusing.
  • Time-of-flight mass spectrometer.
  • Quadrupole mass spectrometer.
  • Ion-cyclotron-resonance spectrometer.
  • Isotopes.
  • The structure of atoms.
  • Integral and differential cross sections.
  • Basic concepts of classical scattering.
  • Determination of the charge distribution within the atom from scattering experiments.
  • Thomson’s atomic model.
  • The Rutherford atomic model.
  • Rutherford’s scattering formulas.
  • Development of quantum physics.
  • Experimental hints to the particle character of electromagnetic radiation.
  • Blackbody radiation.
  • Planck’s radiation law.
  • Wien’s Law, Stefan–Boltzmann’s radiation law.
  • Photoelectric effect.
  • Compton effect.
  • Properties of photons.
  • Photons in gravitational fields.
  • Wave and particle aspects of light.
  • Wave properties of particles.
  • De Broglie wavelength and electron diffraction.
  • Diffraction and interference of atoms.


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Course Outline

  • Bragg reflection and the neutron spectrometer. 
  • Neutron and atom interferometers.
  • Application of particle waves.
  • Matter waves and wave functions. 
  • Wave packets.
  • The statistical interpretation of wave functions. 
  • Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.
  • Dispersion of the wave packet.
  • Uncertainty relation for energy and time. 
  • The quantum structure of atoms.
  • Atomic spectra.
  • Bohr’s atomic model. 
  • The stability of atoms. 
  • Franck–Hertz experiment. 
  • What are the differences between classical and quantum physics?
  • Classical particle paths versus probability densities in quantum physics. 
  • Interference phenomena with light waves and matter waves.
  • The effect of the measuring process.
  • The importance of quantum physics for our concept of nature.
  • Basic concepts of quantum mechanics.
  • The Schrödinger equation.
  • Some examples, The free particle. 
  • Potential barrier.
  • Tunnel effect.
  • Particle in a potential box. 
  • Harmonic oscillator.
  • Two-and three-dimensional problems. 
  • Particle in a two-dimensional box.
  • Particle in a spherically symmetric potential. 
  • Expectation values and operators.
  • Operators and Eigen values.
  • Angular momentum in quantum mechanics.
  • The hydrogen atom.
  • Schrödinger equation for one-electron systems. 
  • Separation of the center of mass and relative motion. 
  • Solution of the radial equation.
  • Quantum Numbers and wave functions of the H atom. 
  • Spatial distributions and expectation values of the electron in different quantum states.
  • The normal Zeeman effect.
  • Comparison of Schrödinger theory with experimental results. 
  • Relativistic correction of energy terms.
  • The Stern–Gerlach experiment.
  • Electron Spin.
  • Einstein–De Haas Effect. 
  • Spin-orbit coupling and fine structure. 
  • Anomalous Zeeman Effect.
  • Hyperfine structure.
  • Basic considerations. 
  • Fermi-contact interaction. 
  • Magnetic dipole-dipole interaction. 
  • Zeeman Effect of hyperfine structure levels. 
  • Complete description of the Hydrogen atom. 
  • Total wave function and quantum numbers.
  • Term assignment and level scheme.
  • Lamb shift.
  • Correspondence principle. 
  • The electron model and its problems.