Creating Strontium Rydberg Atoms
Dunning, F. B.
Master of Science
Dipole-dipole interactions, the strongest, longest-range interactions possible between two neutral atoms, cannot be better manifested anywhere else than in a Rydberg atomic system. Rydberg atoms, having high principal quantum numbers n>>1 and dipole moments that scale as n^2, provide a powerful tool to examine dipole-dipole interactions. Therefore, we have studied the production and production rates of strontium Rydberg atoms created using two-photon excitation and have explored their properties in two distinct experiments. In the first experiment, very-high-n (n~300) Rydberg atoms are produced in a tightly collimated atomic beam allowing spectroscopic studies of their energy levels and their Stark effects. Simulations using a two-active-electron model, developed by our theoretical collaborators, allow detailed analysis of the results and are in remarkable agreement with the experimental results. The high density of Rydberg atoms achieved ~ 5*10^5 cm^(-3), in this experiment will allow studies of strongly interacting Rydberg-Rydberg systems. The second experiment, in which a cold strontium Rydberg gas is excited in a magneto-optic trap, features an imaging technique offering both spatial and temporal resolution. We use this technique to observe and study the evolution of an ultra-cold strontium Rydberg gas which reveals the importance of Rydberg-Rydberg interactions in the early stages of this evolution. Strongly interacting Rydberg gas provides an opportunity to realize a very strongly-correlated ultra-cold plasma.