What do we study?
Transparent materials (usually crystals) containing Rare Earth Ions and Transition Metal Ions that luminesce (i.e. emit light) when energy is added to the material. We use lasers to give energy to the material in a very precise manner, and then observe the emitted light. Careful study of this emitted light allows us to gain insights into the physics of what is going on inside the material.
Why study this stuff?
Two reasons. (1) The physics is interesting, and often very complicated. It’s a great challenge! (2) Luminescent crystalline materials are used in many practical applications, such as lasers, lighting (fluorescent and LED), and medical imaging (CAT scans and PET scans). Our current program is focused on materials for use in LED-based lighting, and is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.