An optically guided atomic fountain
This thesis describes the development of a laser-cooling experiment aimed at efficient transfer of cold atoms over a short distance, for loading into a conservative atom trap. We detail the construction of a 3D magneto-optical trap (MOT) and perform characterisation measurements to optimise the number and temperature of the cold atoms. The atoms are launched vertically in a fountain from the MOT using a 'moving molasses' technique and a red-detuned far-off-resonant laser beam is used to guide them into an UHV chamber. Loading into the guiding beam is optimised with respect to the beam and MOT parameters. We demonstrate a maximum loading of 20% and guiding over a distance of more than 10 cm without loss of atoms. The atoms are delivered to the UHV chamber in a cloud with a transverse dimension of order 200 µm. We discuss the extension to continuous operation of the guided atomic fountain. The 3D MOT is replaced by a funnel with 2D trapping and 3D cooling which continuously extracts the cold atoms using moving molasses. A comparison between the flux of guided atoms obtained in a pulsed fashion from the 3D MOT and continuously from the funnel indicate that the pulsed case is a factor of ten more efficient. The difference is due to inferior loading from the funnel. The optically guided fountain is used to load an optical dipole trap in the UHV chamber, using an 'optical trap door'. No additional cooling is required. The dynamics of the atoms in the optical dipole trap are studied. We discuss multiple loading of a conservative trap with the view of accumulating more atoms than can be obtained in a MOT.