Lifetimes of ultralong-range strontium Rydberg molecules in a dense Bose-Einstein condensate
The lifetimes and decay channels of ultralong-range Rydberg molecules created in a dense Bose-Einstein condensate are examined by monitoring the time evolution of the Rydberg population using field ionization. Studies of molecules with values of the principal quantum number, n , in the range n = 49 to n = 72 that contain tens to hundreds of ground-state atoms within the Rydberg electron orbit show that their presence leads to marked changes in the field ionization characteristics. The Rydberg molecules have lifetimes of ∼ 1 − 5 μ s , their destruction being attributed to two main processes: formation of Sr 2 + ions through associative ionization and dissociation induced through L -changing collisions. The observed loss rates are consistent with a reaction model that emphasizes the interaction between the Rydberg core ion and its nearest-neighbor ground-state atom. The measured lifetimes place strict limits on the time scales over which studies involving Rydberg species in cold, dense atomic gases can be undertaken and limit the coherence times for such measurements.