Resonant Dipole-Dipole Energy Transfer Dynamics in a Frozen Rydberg Gas

Donald P. Fahey

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The dipole-dipole interaction strongly couples ultracold highly excited atoms, known as Rydberg atoms, and is the dominant mechanism for energy exchange among such atoms on microsecond time scales. I present the results of experiments that investigate this interaction using rubidium atoms excited to Rydberg states with an all-diode laser system. In the first of these, high resolution dipole-dipole interaction spectra for different magnetic sublevels of the 32d5/2 state are collected and analyzed. In the second experiment, ultracold rubidium atoms are implusively excited to coherent superpositions of three closely spaced |mj|sublevels of the 32d5/2 state in a weak electric field. The magnitude of the field sets the energy level spacing between these states, and hence the frequency of the phase dependent oscillations resulting from interference in resonant energy exchange processes. In the third experiment, the dipole-dipole interaction induced resonant energy exchange between columns of ultracold rubidium Rydberg atoms is imaged using a new technique involving selective field ionization with a spatially sensitive ion detector.