Atomic quasi-Bragg-diffraction in a magnetic field Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • We report on a new technique to split an atomic beam coherently with an easily adjustable splitting angle. In our experiment metastable helium atoms in the |{1s2s}^3S_1 M=1> state diffract from a polarization gradient light field formed by counterpropagating \sigma^+ and \sigma^- polarized laser beams in the presence of a homogeneous magnetic field. In the near-adiabatic regime, energy conservation allows the resonant exchange between magnetic energy and kinetic energy. As a consequence, symmetric diffraction of |M=0> or |M=-1> atoms in a single order is achieved, where the order can be chosen freely by tuning the magnetic field. We present experimental results up to 6th order diffraction (24 \hbar k momentum splitting, i.e., 2.21 m/s in transverse velocity) and present a simple theoretical model that stresses the similarity with conventional Bragg scattering. The resulting device constitutes a flexible, adjustable, large-angle, three-way coherent atomic beam splitter with many potential applications in atom optics and atom interferometry.

publication date

  • April 1, 2009