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Title: The formation of ultracold rubidium molecules using ultrafast photoassociation
Author: McCabe, David J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2695 4478
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2010
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The establishment of robust laser-cooling techniques for the formation of ultracold atoms has provided a test-bed for low-temperature science, with scattering events changing character from incoherent thermal interactions to coherent quantum mechanical events. A natural extension is the pursuit of ultracold molecules in prescribed low-energy internal states. Atomic cooling techniques, however, do not generalize to the molecular regime due to the complex energy-level structure afforded by its extra degrees of motion. An indirect approach to ultracold molecule formation - photoassociation using ultrafast laser pulses - is the focus of this thesis. A broadband field associates atom pairs into a localized molecular wavepacket that evolves within the attractive excited-state potential. A suitably timed dump pulse may thus be applied to stabilize population into deeply bound ground vibrational states. This strategy may be generalized to any species whose spectroscopy matches the pulse spectrum, and offers a coherent population transfer scheme that does not require precise knowledge of the system. This thesis presents experiments using high-energy photoassociation pulses applied to ultracold rubidium atoms. The pulses quench the background ground-state molecular population but form bound dimers within the excited state. A pump-probe experiment was designed to chart the excited-state dynamics; however, the oscillations predicted by theoretical calculations were not evident in the molecular signal. The nature of the dynamics is expected to be strongly dependent on the initial state of the atom pairs addressed by the ultrafast pulse: a bound molecular population provides an additional candidate to free atoms. A spectroscopic measurement characterizes these bound molecules and identifies their formation mechanism. A subsequent experiment provides evidence that the predominant contributor to the pump-probe signal is the unbound initial population. The consequences with regard to both the observation of excited-state dynamics and the subsequent application of a dump pulse are discussed.
Supervisor: Walmsley, Ian A. Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Physical Sciences ; Physics ; Atomic and laser physics ; ultrafast ; ultracold ; pump-probe ; coherent control ; quantum control ; photoassociation ; spectroscopy ; femtochemistry