A bright source of cold atoms




Lu, Yu, Ph. D.

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This dissertation describes a general approach of generating a high flux of cold atoms that can be confined in a magneto-optical trap. As an alternative to the state-of-the-art laser cooling method, this approach widens our ability to cool and control atoms without relying on a specific atomic transition and availability of laser. In this dissertation I will discuss the design, construction of the experiment and characterization of a pulsed cold atom source in detail. This work is based on a new paradigm: entrainment of atoms in the carrier gas of a supersonic beam, followed by the magnetic deceleration and trapping. Our methodology is based on the supersonic beam created by the expansion of a dense carrier gas from a pulsed release of gas through a small aperture. Cold noble gas emerging from this pulsed high pressure supersonic nozzle acts as a carrier, into which atoms of interest are then entrained. In our studies with the lithium atoms, up to 10¹¹ atoms per pulse could be entrained into a supersonic beam of helium at a translation temperature of below 100 mK. The supersonic valve is typically operated at a rate of below 1 Hz in the experiment. A much larger flux can be achieved at a higher repetition rate. These atoms are moving at a speed of 500 ms⁻¹ and need to be decelerated almost to a complete stop, in order to be trapped and cooled to quantum degeneracy. A 2.5-meter long moving-trap magnetic decelerator with 480 coil pairs was built and characterized. Atoms moving at a speed around 500 ms⁻¹ were trapped and decelerated to various final velocities ranging from 400 ms⁻¹ to 50 ms⁻¹, at a resulting temperature of 30 mK and a flux of 10⁸ ~ 10⁹ atoms per pulse. This whole process takes place within only 10 ms, at a repetition rate of 100 Hz 10¹⁰ ~ 10¹¹ atoms can be delivered per second. This approach is very general compared to the laser cooling, since most atoms in the periodic table have a magnetic moment in their ground state or can be optically pumped to a long-lived para-magnetic metastable state. In this dissertation, I show the working principle of each component of our experiment and characterize the atom beam at multiple stages. I describe in detail the construction and optimization of our magnetic decelerator, and demonstrate the control and monitoring system with the experiment results. Also implemented in this work is a flexible laser system that is composed of a reference diode laser and two tapered amplifiers to control and probe the internal states of atoms, as well as provide the trapping force. I also explore the optical molasses and chirped cooling techniques which help load the atoms into a magneto-optical trap. The successful demonstration of this method of creating a cold atom source leads us to believe that the magnetically decelerated supersonic atoms will play an important role in the area of cold atom physics



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