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Durham University

Department of Physics

PHYS4121 Atoms, Lasers and Qubits (2013/14)

Details of the module's prerequisites, learning outcomes, assessment and contact hours are given in the official module description in the Faculty Handbook - follow the link above.  A detailed description of the module's content is given below, together with book lists and a link to the current library catalogue entries.  For an explanation of the library's categorisation system see


Laser Physics

Dr S.L. Cornish

18 lectures in Michaelmas Term


Required: Laser Physics, Simon Hooker and Colin Webb (OUP)
Additional: Laser Fundamentals, William T. Silfvast (CUP, 2nd Ed.)
Additional: Principles of Lasers, Orazio Svelto (Plenum, 4th Ed.)
Additional: Atomic Physics, Christopher J. Foot (OUP)
Additional: Modern Classical Optics, Geoffrey Brooker (OUP)
Additional: Atomic and Laser Spectroscopy, Alan Corney (OUP)

Syllabus: Definition of a laser. Atom-light interactions. Absorption, spontaneous and stimulated emission. Line broadening mechanisms and emission linewidth. Population inversion and gain. Laser oscillator: cavity basics and threshold; gain saturation and output power. Population inversion in 3 and 4-level systems. Laser pumping with case studies of specific laser systems. Cavity modes and cavity stability. Gaussian beams. Cavity effects: single frequency operation. Cavity effects: Q switching and mode locking. Laser spectroscopy and optical frequency combs. Case studies of laser applications.

Quantum Information and Computing

Prof I.G. Hughes

18 lectures in Epiphany Term


Additional: Quantum Computation and Quantum Information, M.A. Nielsen and I.L. Chuang (CUP)
Additional: A Short Introduction to Quantum Compilation, M.L. Bellac (CUP)
Additional: Atomic Physics, C.J. Foot (OUP)
Additional: Quantum Information, S. Barnett (OUP)

Syllabus: Manipulation of qubits: Limits of classical computing. Feynman’s insight. Quantum mechanics revision. Projection operators. Pauli matrices. Single-qubit operations: Resonant field, the Rabi solution. The Bloch sphere. The Ramsey technique. Two-qubit states. Tensor products. Correlations. Entanglement. Bell states. Two-qubit gates. The CNOT gate. Physical Realizations: The DiVincenzo criteria. Controlling the centre-of mass motion of atoms – laser cooling. Controlling the internal states of atoms. Trapping and manipulating single atoms. Rydberg states. Decoherence. Case studies of contemporary Quantum Information Processing.


2 lectures in Easter Term, one by each lecturer 

Teaching methods

Lectures: 2 one-hour lectures per week

Problem exercises: See