We present two cooling mechanisms that lead to temperatures well below the Doppler limit. These mechanisms are based on laser polarization gradients and work at low laser power when the optical-pumping time between different ground-state sublevels becomes long. There is then a large time lag between the internal atomic response and the atomic motion, which leads to a large cooling force. In the simple case of one-dimensional molasses, we identify two types of polarization gradient that occur when the two counterpropagating waves have either orthogonal linear polarizations or orthogonal circular polarizations. In the first case, the light shifts of the ground-state Zeeman sublevels are spatially modulated, and optical pumping among them leads to dipole forces and to a Sisyphus effect analogous to the one that occurs in stimulated molasses. In the second case (σ+−σ− configuration), the cooling mechanism is radically different. Even at very low velocity, atomic motion produces a population difference among ground-state sublevels, which gives rise to unbalanced radiation pressures. From semiclassical optical Bloch equations, we derive for the two cases quantitative expressions for friction coefficients and velocity capture ranges. The friction coefficients are shown in both cases to be independent of the laser power, which produces an equilibrium temperature proportional to the laser power. The lowest achievable temperatures then approach the one-photon recoil energy. We briefly outline a full quantum treatment of such a limit.
© 1989 Optical Society of AmericaFull Article | PDF Article