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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Action Spectroscopy of Molecular Ions and Studies of Cold Collsions in a Hybrid Atom-Ion Trap

  • Author(s): Schowalter, Steven
  • Advisor(s): Hudson, Eric R
  • et al.

This Dissertation details the development of state-of-the-art hybrid atom-ion trapping architecture and technique towards increasing the quantum control of matter and the detection of chemical processes at cold temperatures. Experimental work discussed herein is performed primarily using the second-generation of the MOTion trap, a hybrid atom-ion trap consisting of a co-located magneto-optical trap (MOT) and a linear quadrupole trap (LQT), with which $^{40}$Ca and a variety of atomic and molecular ions (Yb$^+$, Ba$^+$, BaCl$^+$, and others) can be co-trapped and cooled. Such a device enables the immersion of laser-cooled, ionic Coulomb crystals in diffuse gases of laser-cooled, highly-polarizable neutral atoms, allowing for studies in sympathetic cooling, cold atom-ion chemistry, and nonequilbrium collisional dynamics.

In the first of these studies, I discuss our method of sympathetic cooling in which we use a laser-cooled gas of Ca atoms to sympathetically cool BaCl$^+$ ions confined in the LQT. Because of the large polarizability of Ca, this method is found to be extremely efficient at cooling the notoriously difficult vibrational degree of freedom. This technique opens the door to research with general, ultracold, highly-localized molecular ions in the quantum ground-state which are not able to be produced using the more traditional methods of Doppler-cooling or photoassociation.

In the study of cold chemistry in the hybrid trap, I characterize a fundamental reaction, known as charge exchange, at the single-particle level in which an electron is transferred from a neutral atom to an atomic ion during an inelastic collision. This low-temperature process is thought to be foundational to the chemistry leading to the formation of stars, planets and interstellar clouds in our universe. Herein I discuss how improved experimental architecture has enabled the determination of reaction rate constants for individual electronic states of the reactants.

Our theoretical study of the collisional processes in hybrid atom-ion traps has led to the discovery of surprising nonequilibrium physics which exists in the hybrid trap environment. Herein I outline the collisional dynamics between neutral atoms and atomic ions in the presence of a time-dependent confining potential and describe how these dynamics manifest themselves in the emergence of nonequilbrium phenomena as indicated by bifurcations in steady-state energies of trapped ions. I show how the these dynamics can potentially limit the efficiency and overall viability of using neutral buffer gases to sympathetically cool the translational motion of trapped ions to ultracold temperatures.

In addition to these experimental studies, the development of architecture is discussed with focus given to the implementation of a novel time-of-flight mass spectrometer (TOF-MS) for use with hybrid atom-ion traps as well as standard LQTs. This simple, modular device couples radially with the LQT and enables the straightforward mass analysis of trapped species without complications derived from typical experimental difficulties, engineering constraints, and financial concerns. With this robust device we precisely characterize chemical processes which can take place in these hybrid atom-ion traps. Additionally, I describe how this new architecture is used to perform the action spectroscopy of several previously unstudied molecular ions in order to further establish the field of cold molecular ion research and the widespread use of hybrid atom-ion traps.

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