Quantum Trapping of Atoms in Optical Molasses.
The force acting on a two-level atom in a low -intensity standing laser wave is calculated. On account of this force, atoms can be trapped at the loops (antinodes) of the field. By quantizing the atomic motion near the bottom of the sinusoidal potential, we have studied the atomic behavior when they are trapped in bound states as well as when they are in the free state. Laser cooling of neutral atoms was first suggested by T. Hansh and A. Schawlow in 1975. The principle involves the Doppler effect in a detuned laser beam. The absorption rate of a photon depends on the apparent frequency of the photon that is shifted omega v/c from omega, where omega is the frequency of the laser, v is the velocity of the atom, and c is the velocity of light. For a single laser beam detuned slightly below an atomic resonance frequency, the apparent frequency for atoms moving toward the laser is closer to resonance, which causes a higher absorption rate. And these atoms lose momentum when they absorb a photon from the beam. The velocity of atoms can be decreased from 10^5 cm/sec, the velocity they have when they escape from an oven, to 10^2 cm/sec (about 1mK) by a laser beam. For further cooling, counterpropagating beams are necessary. In this study we propose a new mechanism for supercooling, that is, cooling well below the Doppler cooling limit. Within a standing laser wave there exists a force called a "dipole force", which has a sinusoidal spatial dependence. Once atoms are trapped by the potential, their motion around the minimum of the potential well is that of a simple harmonic oscillator. Restricting our attention to the two lowest quantized states, we calculate transition rates between free states and bound states, from which the average residence times in the bound states can be obtained. This first quantum treatment of an atom trapped in the sinusoidal potential is restricted to the one-dimensional case. Generalization to higher dimensions is left for future research.
- Pub Date:
- October 1992
- Physics: Condensed Matter