Metastable Xenon ProjectMetastable xenon is an attractive system for the study of atomic and molecular physics for a variety of reasons. There are nine stable isotopes of xenon, all of which may be laser cooled and magneto-optically trapped (see figure at lower right). Both bosonic and fermionic isotopes are available, allowing the study of both isotopic and quantum statistical effects. The narrow two-photon transition at 2.19 µm is an attractive candidate for an optical frequency standard, and may potentially lead to a significant improvement over existing standards. Two atoms colliding in the 6s[3/2]2 metastable state can undergo Penning ionization (Xe* + Xe* Xe + Xe+ + e-), producing an easily detectable Xe+ ion; this makes metastable xenon an ideal system for the study of ultra-cold collisions between atoms.
Xenon metastables in the 6s[3/2]2 state (Figure 1 at lower left) are created in a DC electric discharge. This state, with a lifetime of 43 seconds, serves as the effective "ground state" for all our experiments. The atoms are laser cooled using light tuned near the 882 nm 6s[3/2]2 6p[5/2]3 transition, and loaded into a magneto-optical trap (MOT). We typically load 107 atoms into our MOT, at densities of 1010 cm-3, and temperatures of ~100 µK.
Xenon Experiment Staff, Past and Present:
The work described in these pages was performed under the direction of Steve Rolston by a number of students and post-docs, including (but not limited to):