Long-range Interactions Between Ultracold Rydberg Atoms and the Formation Properties of Long-range Rydberg Molecules

Date of Completion

January 2011


Physics, Low Temperature|Physics, Quantum




The work presented in this dissertation represents a comprehensive study on long-range interactions between alkali Rydberg atoms. As a consequence of their size, Rydberg atoms possess very large dipole moments, making them highly sensitive to external fields and to other Rydberg atoms. The strong dipole-dipole interaction between two Rydberg atoms results in a mixing of their angular momentum characters, which is the cornerstone of the work presented here. We describe the ℓ-mixing between various local molecular asymptotes through a residual Coulomb potential, assuming no electron cloud overlap. We then directly diagonalize an interaction Hamiltonian consisting of these Rydberg-Rydberg interactions and spin-orbit (fine structure) coupling in the Hund's case (c). In this manner, we calculate potential energy curves for various molecular symmetries and find that some of these curves exhibit deep potential wells, capable of supporting very extended bound molecular states ( macrodimers). We analyze the specific structure of the ℓ-mixing for these potential wells and derive convenient n-scaling relations for both their equilibrium separations Re and well depths De. We also explore various properties of the macrodimers, including their response to small electric fields and stability with respect to predissociation. We note throughout the dissertation that the detection of such extended dimers could help progress studies in a variety of areas such as exotic, ultracold chemistry and quantum information and computing. To facilitate detection, we propose a scheme to form and study the macrodimers via photoassociation (PA). We present calculated PA lineshapes from two different electronic ground states based on a harmonic trapping model. We find that both PA signals vary significantly with the laser detunings, indicating that different ℓ-characters could be probed at different equilibrium lengths. Finally, we extend the two-body formalism to the case of three interacting Rydberg atoms and present preliminary results for triply excited 58p rubidium atoms along a common axis. We provide a few examples of surface plots corresponding to different local asymptotes, each with a unique three-dimensional "landscape" and discuss the relevance of the physical features. The highlight of our analysis is the appearance of a potential well, which indicates the formation of a linear trimer. ^