It is often desirable in laser spectroscopy and isotope separation to extract as
much as possible of an atomic or molecular population that is distributed among
a number of ground-state sublevels and low-lying metastable levels. We describe
a form of coherent trapping that occurs when multiple resonant laser beams are
used to couple the various ground states to a common upper level. This effect
prevents the extraction of the entire population. We then study the effect with
two dye lasers and an atomic beam and suggest possible ways to maximize the
© 1978 Optical Society of America
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