2008 Thomson medal and prize

Professor Edward Hinds

Imperial College London

For his important and elegant experimental investigations in the fields of atomic physics and quantum optics.

The Thomson medal and prize for distinguished research in atomic or molecular physics has been awarded to Professor Edward Hinds, Professor of Physics at Imperial College London, for his important and elegant experimental investigations in the fields of atomic physics and quantum optics.

First working at Yale University, then at Sussex and now at Imperial College, Professor Hinds has made major contributions to several areas of fundamental and technological interest: the physics of ultracold atoms, the study of quantum interactions between light and matter in an optical cavity, and precision measurements of fundamental properties relevant to particle theory.

For decades, Hinds has been a leader in low-energy, small-scale experiments probing the electric dipole moment of the electron and proton in the strong electric field of a heavy-metal molecule. Any asymmetry in charge would throw light on symmetry properties associated with fundamental interactions in matter, normally seen only at very high energies.

His work on ultracold atoms has been seminal, developing optical microcavities in microchip structures to trap atoms and control their wave-like behaviour. Clouds of atoms, collected and refrigerated by laser light, can be cooled to the lowest temperatures in the universe. This has created the new field of atom optics whereby cold atoms are manipulated, much as photons are controlled in traditional optics using mirrors, lenses, and waveguides. Hinds’ group has been making atom chips in which atoms are guided on microscopic magnetic tapes. He is building an atom interferometer with the aim of measuring accelerations and gravitational forces sensitively, and searching for new forces between atoms and surfaces. A long-term goal is to build a quantum computer using the interactions between the atoms to do logic operations.