Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Research of cold and ultracold molecules is currently a burgeoning field in experimental and theoretical physics. New experimental techniques, involving an increasingly large set of molecule types under high levels of control, are currently opening up new avenues of research with a vast array of potential applications. From understanding the role of quantum mechanics in molecular scattering and cold chemistry, to testing the fundamental symmetries of nature and realizing quantum computing with dipolar molecular qubits, experiments are accessing regimes not dreamed of even a few years ago. Theoretical interest and computing capabilities are also at an all time high, spurred on by the possibility of creating ultracold dipolar gases as tunable realizations of strongly interacting quantum Hamiltonians, creating exotic phases of matter, and the investigation of controlling molecular interactions with applied electromagnetic fields.
Less than a decade ago, cold molecule experiments had seemingly reached a technological plateau, being capable of creating moderate densities of 106-107 molecules/cm3 at temperatures of 10-100 mK. With many applications requiring colder temperatures and higher densities, the field was ripe for new advances. Today, via a plethora of methods such as direct molecular laser cooling, electro-optical cooling, magneto- and photo-association, and new molecular beam deceleration techniques, the field is just beginning to have the tools capable of producing truly interesting systems for study.
This work will discuss a couple of major steps taken in the direction of achieving scientific goals using cold molecules. The first experimental advancement discussed will be the development of a co-trap environment for studying interactions and collisions between ultracold atoms and Stark decelerated cold polar molecules. In this experiment, rubidium atoms are trapped using magnetic fields, and ammonia atoms are decelerated and trapped using electric fields. The two traps are spatially overlapped in order to investigate inter-species interactions. The co-trap environment provides exceedingly long interaction times, many orders of magnitude longer than typical beam-based interaction studies. As a result, it provides extremely high sensitivity to weak interaction mechanisms. The second experimental advancement discussed will be the development and construction of a new style of Stark decelerator, capable of producing much larger densities of cold molecules. This apparatus has the potential to expand the realm of possible experiments with chemically interesting species, and provide an unprecedented amount of control over molecular beams and traps. The gains haven't come easily though, as a new class of custom high-voltage amplifiers have needed to be developed. This part of the experiment alone took approximately two years of consistent effort to bring to fruition. After many years of development, this experiment is poised to come online, finally fulfilling its potential.
Fitch, Noah J., "Traveling-Wave Stark-Decelerated Molecular Beams for Cold Collision Experiments" (2013). Physics Graduate Theses & Dissertations. 96.