Cold Polar Molecules

The ability to laser cool gas-phase samples of a small subset of elements found in the periodic table has established ultracold atoms as premier systems for precision measurement and control. Select species have been cooled to quantum degeneracy and are finding use as elements in quantum information processors, quantum simulators, and optical atomic clocks. These atoms, however, are extremely symmetric and simple objects when compared to molecules. Even a simple diatomic molecule made from two different elements offers a vast array of new control possibilities if we can produce samples that are as cold and dense as is routinely achieved for atomic samples. It turns out that this is a much more demanding task than it was for atoms, due essentially to the addition of the vibrational degree of freedom that molecules possess.

We are pursuing ways to produce cold samples of polar molecules in the lab. Our focus is on simplicity of both concept and apparatus, and we use a host of different tools to help us, including parts of the electromagnetic spectrum ranging from UV lasers to microwaves to quasi-DC electric fields. As with most atomic physics labs, we also utilize lasers for many tasks, including Q-switched, mode-locked, and continuous-wave lasers. Our plan is to use these tools to decelerate, cool, and trap dense samples of cold molecules for quantum simulation and cold, controlled chemistry.