Dynamics and applications of excited cold atoms

B.J. Claessens

    Research output: ThesisPhd Thesis 1 (Research TU/e / Graduation TU/e)

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    In a Magneto-Optical Trap (MOT), realized for the first time in 1987, one can trap and cool neutral atoms to temperatures below a mK. The invention of this device caused a revolution in atomic physics. With an MOT collision and spectroscopy experiments could be performed with unprecedented accuracy. The main breakthrough came about 10 years later when the atom from an MOT were used to create a Bose Einstein Condensate (BEC), a source of coherent matter. All this work has been rewarded with no less than two Nobel prizes: in 1997, Chu, Cohen-Tannoudji and Phillips received the Nobel prize for the practical and theoretical development of laser cooling, and in 2001 Cornell, Ketterle and Wieman received the Nobel prize for the realization of a Bose Einstein Condensate in a dilute gas. In 1999 Killian et al. took trapped atoms in an entirely new direction when they succeeded in creating the very first Ultracold Plasma (UCP) from the atoms in an MOT. The temperature of such a plasma is more than 1000 times lower than the temperatures in conventional cold plasmas. As a result, this type of plasmas received a lot of attention, both theoretically and experimentally. So far studies of UCPs have mainly been of a fundamental kind. In this thesis we study both the fundamental aspects of atoms excited from a magneto-optical as well as the feasibility of using the electrons and ions from a UCP as a source for charged particle accelerators. The work in this thesis therefore pioneers the line between atom physics, plasma physics and accelerator physics. The first part of this thesis deals with an experimental study of the effect of an ionizing laser on cold neon atoms. Here we study the loss of atoms from a Magneto-Optical Trap caused by photionization. From these measurements we deduce a new value for the near threshold photoionization cross section 2:05±0:25x10-18 cm2 at ¿ = 351 nm and 2:05±0:25x10-18 cm2 at ¿ = 364 nm, which is a factor of four more accurate than previous measurements. The measured valuesagree with earlier measurements but differ signi¯cantly from theoretical values. The value of this cross section has a practical relevance for the realization of a continuous ion source. The second part of this thesis has been conducted at the University of Virginia. We study the role of dipole-dipole interactions in the formation of a UCP from a gas of cold Rydberg atoms, and the effect of dipole-dipole interactions on the broadening of microwave transitions. We find that the broadening scales linearly with the density en scales with the fourth power of n, the principal quantum number. These results show the great importance of dipole-dipole interactions in gas of cold Rydberg atoms and are also relevant for the possible realization of a quantum computer from Rydberg atoms. In a third part we studied the potential of using a UCP as a source for electron accelerators. This was done based upon elaborate simulations performed with the General Particle Tracer Code. The main result of these simulations is that, based upon realistic parameters, the brightness, i.e., the figure of merit for charged particle sources defined as the current divided by the emittance squared, of such a source can be up to two orders of magnitude larger than the brightness of conventional sources, which is a major advance. The emittance is a measure for the the focusability of the bunch, and scales as p T, with T the electron temperature. The increase in brightness is mainly attributed to the low electron temperatures of approximately 10 K in an UCP, resulting in an initial emittance of 0.01 mm mrad, compared to 1 mm mrad in a conventional source. With experimentally proven techniques it is possible to extract 10 nC/s from the source, which is a competitive repetition rate. In the next part we describe the design, construction and testing of the first setup with which we want to build an electron accelerator based upon cold atoms. For this we first built a vapor-cell magneto-optical trap, in which we can trap over 109 rubidium atoms with a temperature of 200 ¹K, straight from a background vapor, we also designed an atomic beam that will be implemented in the near future and can provide an increased repetition rate. In the last chapter we show how Rydberg atoms excited from an MOT, evolve into an UCP spontaneously. We extracted a minimum of 1 pC from the plasma. As a main result, we were one of the ¯rst to show how the ions and electrons from a UCP can be imaged on a phosphor screen. From these images we can deduct an upper value for the electron and the ion temperature, we extract for both the electrons and the ions an upper temperature of 40 K, when we translate this temperature to an initial emittance, we obtain a value of 0.01 mm mrad, proving the potential of the electrons extracted from atoms excited out of an MOT as a low emittance source. Our measured current of 1 ¹A is not yet competitive and results from the small electric field, but is expected to increase dramatically in the near future. We will implement a 30 kV 10 ns risetime accelerator with which it should be possible to get a current of about 50 mA. Furthermore we will implement the proper diagnostics to measure the proper charge, current and emittance. In the very last chapter we speculate charged particle sources from cold atoms might advance the state of the art in achievable brightness for both electron and ion beams.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Applied Physics and Science Education
    • Beijerinck, Herman, Promotor
    • van der Wiel, Marnix, Promotor
    • Vredenbregt, Edgar J.D., Copromotor
    Award date6 Jul 2006
    Place of PublicationEindhoven
    Print ISBNs978-90-386-2531-7
    Publication statusPublished - 2006


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