Producing, trapping and controlling ultracold CaF molecules

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Title: Producing, trapping and controlling ultracold CaF molecules
Author(s): Williams, Hannah Jane
Item Type: Thesis or dissertation
Abstract: From studies of fundamental physics to quantum technologies the production of ultracold molecules will have a huge impact across a range of applications. For many years laser cooling, which became an invaluable tool in cold atomic physics, was deemed to be too impractical for application to molecules. Nevertheless, laser cooling has now been demonstrated for a few molecular species. Using a frequency-chirped laser slowing technique, the velocity distribution of a pulse of CaF molecules is compressed and slowed from 180 m/s to about 10 m/s. These slow molecules are then captured in a magneto-optical trap. I present measurements that show how the number of molecules, the photon scattering rate, the oscillation frequency, damping constant, temperature, cloud size and lifetime depend on the key parameters of the magneto-optical trap, especially the intensity and detuning of the main cooling laser. The trap contains up to 2*10^4 molecules, the maximum photon scattering rate is 2.5*10^6 s-1 per molecule, the maximum oscillation frequency is 100 Hz, the maximum damping constant is 500 s^-1, and the minimum rms radius of the trapped cloud is 1.5 mm. A minimum temperature of 730 microkelvin is obtained by ramping down the laser intensity to lower values. To reach lower temperatures, the cloud is loaded into a blue-detuned optical molasses, which cools the molecules to 55 microkelvin, well below the Doppler-limiting temperature. I characterise the cooling process and suggest the sub-Doppler mechanisms responsible. These ultracold molecules are the optically pumped into a single quantum state, and coherently transferred between selected hyperfine components of the ground and first-excited rotational states. Finally, the ultracold, state-selected molecules are loaded into a magnetic trap that has a lifetime of about 1 s.
Content Version: Open Access
Publication Date: Apr-2018
Date Awarded: Aug-2018
Advisor: Tarbutt, Michael
Sauer, Ben
Sponsor/Funder: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Funder's Grant Number: EP-M506345-1
Department: Physics
Publisher: Imperial College London
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Qualification Name: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Appears in Collections:Physics PhD theses

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