Abstract

An overview of the theory of the magneto-optical trap is presented, along with measurements of the effect of an imbalance in the intensities of the trapping beams. This investigation tests the theory of the spring constant of the trap and confirms that the confining force at the center of the trap results from an induced orientation of the atomic ground state. The experimental results give the magnitude of this force, which has not yet been calculated accurately. We calculate the radiation field in the three-dimensional molasses, finding that the relative time phase of the orthogonal standing waves is significant, and we give some insight into the phenomenon of interference fringes when the beams are misaligned. We also discuss the limitation of the trapped atomic density resulting from photon scattering within the cloud, predicting that densities above 1013 atoms/cm3 could be achieved in a trap operating at low saturation of the atomic transition. Finally, we briefly consider collisional loss at low densities, finding an especially large contribution from resonant dipole–dipole scattering.

© 1992 Optical Society of America

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