Laser cooling and loading of Rb into a large period, quasi-electrostatic, optical lattice
This thesis reports on the design and construction of, and results from, an optical-dipole trapping apparatus developed to confine ultracold rubidium atoms in a conservative, large period, optical-dipole trap. An ultra-high vacuum system was designed and constructed to create a very low- background pressure. A new technique of viewport construction was developed, allowing for the fabrication of economical, high-quality windows for transmission of mid-infra-red laser radiation. The construction of a magneto-optical trap (MOT) and an optical molasses, and the subsequent characterisation, are discussed. A theory for the ac-Stark shift of atoms in a far-detuned laser field was developed. The nature of the scalar and tensorial light-shifts of the ground and first excited states of alkali atoms - the 5s(^2)S1/2 and 5p(^2)P3/2 states of Rb - has been examined. The effect of the differential light-shifts between these states on the operation of efficient laser cooling is discussed. A quasi-electrostatic dipole trap (QUEST) was formed from 50 W of CO2 laser power (٢ = 10.6 μm), focussed to <100 μm. The transfer of ultra-cold atoms from the MOT and optical molasses to the QUEST have been examined. Single beam and standing wave geometries of the QUEST have been implemented, with lifetimes of many seconds. The theory for the ac-Stark effect due to a single laser field has been further developed to consider orthogonally polarised fields with independent wavelengths. The use of an auxiliary laser field, a Nd:YAG laser at λ = 1.064 μm, to enhance the number and density of atoms loaded into the QUEST has been proposed and realised.