The purpose of this report is to identify the most promising future opportunities in AMO science based on what is known at this time. Building on these findings, the report describes the most fertile avenues for the next decade’s research in this field.

Despite a century of phenomenal progress in science, the universe is still a mysterious place. Many fundamental questions remain. One of the most important is that the fundamental forces of nature that shape the universe are still not fully understood. New AMO technology will help provide answers in the coming decades—in precision laboratory measurements on the properties of atoms, in giant gravitational observatories on Earth, or in even larger observatories based in space. Tremendous advances in precision timekeeping also place us at the threshold of answering some of the central questions.

Society has other urgent needs that AMO physics is poised to address. How will we meet our energy needs as Earth’s natural resources become depleted and the environment changes? Solar energy collection and conversion, laser fusion, or molecular biophysics may offer solutions, and all of these have strong connections to AMO science. Health threats are likely to increase on our interconnected and highly populated planet, and rapid response to new contagions requires the development of ways to detect biomolecules remotely, possibly through advanced laser techniques, as well as ways to measure their structure and chemistry, a priority effort at advanced x-ray light sources. The future security of our nation’s most powerful weapons may depend on our ability to reproduce the plasma conditions of a fusion bomb in the tiny focus of a powerful laser. And, controlling that plasma is key to harnessing its power for beneficial uses.

These last lines underscore how AMO science contributes strongly to the development of advanced technologies and tools. Instruments made possible by AMO science and related technical developments are today everywhere in experimental science—from astronomy to zoology. In many instances they enable revolutionary experiments or observations that lead to revolutionary new insights. A century of progress toward understanding the mysterious and counterintuitive nature of quantum mechanics now places AMO science at the vanguard of a new kind of quantum revolution, in which coherence and control are the watchwords.


This report concludes that research in AMO science and technology is thriving. It identifies, from among the many important and relevant issues in AMO science, six broad grand challenges that succinctly describe key scientific opportunities available to AMO science:

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