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Laser Cooling and Slowing of a Diatomic Molecule

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Doctoral thesis

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Laser cooling and trapping are central to modern atomic physics. It has been roughly three decades since laser cooling techniques produced ultracold atoms, leading to rapid advances in a vast array of fields and a number of Nobel prizes. Prior to the work presented in this thesis, laser cooling had not yet been extended to molecules because of their complex internal structure. However, this complexity makes molecules potentially useful for a wide range of applications. The first direct laser cooling of a molecule and further results we present here provide a new route to ultracold temperatures for molecules. In particular, these methods bridge the gap between ultracold temperatures and the approximately 1 kelvin temperatures attainable with directly cooled molecules e.g. with cryogenic buffer gas cooling or decelerated supersonic beams. Using the carefully chosen molecule strontium monofluoride SrF, decays to unwanted vibrational states are suppressed. Driving a transition with rotational quantum number R1 to an excited state with R00 eliminates decays to unwanted rotational states. The dark ground-state Zeeman sublevels present in this specific scheme are remixed via a static magnetic field. Using three lasers for this scheme, a given molecule should undergo an average of approximately 100, 000 photon absorptionemission cycles before being lost via unwanted decays. This number of cycles should be sufficient to load a magneto-optical trap MOT of molecules. In this thesis, we demonstrate transverse cooling of an SrF beam, in both Doppler and a Sisyphus-type cooling regimes. We also realize longitudinal slowing of an SrF beam. Finally, we detail current progress towards trapping SrF in a MOT. Ultimately, this technique should enable the production of large samples of molecules at ultracold temperatures for molecules chemically distinct from competing methods.

Subject Categories:

  • Electricity and Magnetism
  • Fiber Optics and Integrated Optics
  • Nuclear Physics and Elementary Particle Physics

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