Optical molasses and multilevel atoms: theory

P. J. Ungar, David Scott Weiss, E. Riis, Steven Chu

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322 Scopus citations


A theoretical analysis is given for laser cooling of a two-level atom with magnetic sublevels in the presence of polarization gradients. The optical Bloch equations for the multilevel system are solved numerically for four combinations of polarizations in one-dimensional optical molasses. The light-pressure force on the atom as given by a simple two-level theory is recovered in the absence of polarization gradients, whereas a spatial variation of the polarization is found to lead to a strong cooling force for slow atoms. The increased cooling force is responsible for the recent observations of atoms cooled in optical molasses to temperatures an order of magnitude below the Doppler limit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2058-2071
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the Optical Society of America B: Optical Physics
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jan 1 1989

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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