Photoassociation: From a quasicontinuum model to coherent matter optics

Date of Completion

January 1999


Physics, Molecular|Physics, Condensed Matter|Physics, Atomic




We consider the process of photoassociation (PA) that occurs when a pair of colliding atoms interacts with a photon, thereby making a transition from the two-atom continuum to a bound molecular state. Such free-bound transitions are described by quantizing the molecule's dissociation continuum, and coupling each of these quasicontinuum (QC) levels to a similarly discrete molecular level. The correct free-atom results are recovered no later than at the end of a given calculation by taking the limit as the QC spacing tends to zero. From the quasicontinuum model, we are led to adapt the few-level and second-quantization methods of photon optics to analyze free-bound transitions. In particular, we establish the PA density parameter as nearly identical to the phase-space parameter as a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC), illustrate the near-unit efficiency of one- and two-color photoassociation of a BEC, and develop coherent atom-molecule transitions as the matter optics version of second-harmonic generated photons. ^