Development of a new apparatus for coherent control in sodium atoms and dimers
This thesis presents original work contributing to the understanding of coherent control of wave packet dynamics in atomic and molecular systems excited by sequences of ultrafast laser pulses. An introduction to coherent control and a review of the literature is presented in chapter 1. Different approaches to coherent control are considered from the perspective of the phase complexity of the light fields used to achieve them, starting with a single transform-limited pulse, advancing through two-colour and multi-pulse schemes to chirped pulses, and finally arbitrarily shaped pulses. The purpose of this literature review is to position the work described in this thesis within the context of contemporary coherent control. In particular, our approach is seen to be in line with the current trend towards understanding the physics underlying coherent control processes. In chapter 2, development of a sodium atom and dimer beam source for use in optical coherent control experiments is described. The concepts of molecular beams are introduced along with a brief review of the literature on sodium atom and dimer beams. The beam source is considered in two parts. Firstly the sodium oven and nozzle are described in detail, along with the vacuum chamber that houses them. This is followed by a description of the experimental chamber, which contains a time-of-flight mass spectrometer. Finally a number of potential improvements to the system are discussed. Experiments to control the angular momentum composition of Rydberg electronic wave packets in atomic sodium are reported in chapter 3. The control scheme uses phase-locked pairs of transform-limited picosecond laser pulses to create pairs of identical radial wave packets in the Rydberg states. Quantum interference between the wave packets, or the excitation pathways to them, is manipulated to control the total angular composition of the resultant wave packet, which is detected either by the optical Ramsey method or by state-selective field ionisation. The results are interpreted both from the perspective of time evolution of the wave packet and the frequency content of the laser fields. The control strategy is then extended theoretically by the inclusion of linear chirp in one of the laser pulses. Chapter 4 describes progress towards a novel experiment for optical coherent control of vibrational wave packet dynamics in the sodium dimer. A coherent superposition of high-lying Rydberg states of the Na2 is excited by the broad bandwidth of a femtosecond laser pulse. The Rydberg states converge to several vibrational ionisation limits of the dimer, so the excitation effectively forms a vibrational wave packet in the X+ 22g+ ionic potential. Excitation of several wave packets by a series of phase-locked transform-limited pulses allows control over the composition and dynamics of the wave packet, and its detection using a combination of the optical Ramsey method and pulsed-field ionisation techniques adapted from ZEKE spectroscopy. A simple genetic algorithm is presented in chapter 5. It has been implemented to investigate the suitably of this type of optimisation procedure in simulations of Rydberg electronic wave packet coherent control in atomic sodium. The operation of the algorithm is described in detail. It is then tested against known solutions for two experimental scenarios: coherent control based on pairs of transform-limited laser pulses and transform-limited first pulse followed by a chirped second pulse. The behaviour of the algorithm is discussed in detail for each of these cases. Finally, the potential for application of the algorithm to unknown problems is briefly discussed.