Stopping supersonic oxygen with a series of pulsed electromagnetic coils: A molecular coilgun

Article (PDF Available)inPhysical Review A 77(5) · May 2008with 29 Reads
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevA.77.051401
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Abstract
We report the stopping of a molecular oxygen beam, using a series of pulsed electromagnetic coils. A series of coils is fired in a timed sequence to bring the molecules to near rest, where they are detected with a quadrupole mass spectrometer. Applications to cold chemistry are discussed.
Stopping supersonic oxygen with a series of pulsed electromagnetic coils: A molecular coilgun
Edvardas Narevicius,1Adam Libson,1Christian G. Parthey,1Isaac Chavez,1Julia Narevicius,1Uzi Even,2and
Mark G. Raizen1,*
1Center for Nonlinear Dynamics and Department of Physics, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78712-1081, USA
2Sackler School of Chemistry, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel
Received 15 February 2008; published 12 May 2008
We report the stopping of a molecular oxygen beam, using a series of pulsed electromagnetic coils. A series
of coils is fired in a timed sequence to bring the molecules to near rest, where they are detected with a
quadrupole mass spectrometer. Applications to cold chemistry are discussed.
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevA.77.051401 PACS numbers: 37.10.Mn, 37.20.j
The development of new methods to trap and cool mol-
ecules paves the way for experimental studies of chemical
reactions at ultracold temperatures. In this regime, rate coef-
ficients of exothermic chemical reactions can be determined
by the attractive van der Waals interaction and quantum
threshold effects. This is shown, for example, in the bench-
mark reaction F+H2FH+ H 1. Another promising appli-
cation of cold molecules is high-resolution spectroscopy.
First experiments on slowed OH radical spectroscopy have
been reported 2.
Despite the growing interest in the field of ultracold
chemistry, experimental progress has been hampered by a
lack of appropriate methods to trap and cool molecules. La-
ser cooling, while very successful, is limited to a small num-
ber of atoms in the Periodic Table because few atoms and no
molecules have closed cycling transitions. The main methods
to produce cold molecules of chemical interest can be di-
vided into two groups. Buffer gas cooling relies on collisions
with cold helium in a dilution refrigerator to cool paramag-
netic molecules and trap them in a magnetic trap 3. Super-
sonic expansion is used by other methods to precool the
molecules. The resulting cold molecular beams have been
slowed and trapped in some experimentsby interactions
with pulsed electric fields Stark decelerator兲关46, by inter-
actions with pulsed optical fields 7, by spinning the nozzle
8, and by billiardlike collisions 9. Finally, laser-cooled
alkali-metal atoms are used to produce cold molecules via
photoassociation 1012. None of these methods have, to
date, achieved the phase space densities required to observe
reaction dynamics at ultracold temperatures.
We recently demonstrated a general method to stop and
eventually trapparamagnetic atoms 13,14. Our method is
based on the interaction of a paramagnetic particle with
pulsed magnetic fields. It operates in analogy with the Stark
decelerator 46by reducing the kinetic energy of a para-
magnetic atom passing through a series of pulsed electro-
magnetic coils. The amount of kinetic energy removed by
each stage is equal to the Zeeman energy shift that the atom
experiences at the time the fields are switched off. The same
approach has been independently pursued 15,16. Our
method relies on the presence of a permanent magnetic mo-
ment and may be applied to any paramagnetic species that
can be entrained or seeded into a beam. As such, the coilgun
can be used to slow and eventually trap paramagnetic mol-
ecules. Most molecular radicals have a magnetic moment in
the ground electronic state, and several molecules such as
NO, NO2, and ClO2have a nonzero electron spin in the
ground electronic state, which means that a substantial frac-
tion of these molecules will be paramagnetic at supersonic
expansion temperatures. Molecular oxygen is a unique case,
as the ground state is itself paramagnetic.
In this Rapid Communication we demonstrate the stop-
ping of ground state 3g
oxygen using a 64 stage coilgun.
We slow oxygen molecules from 389 to 83 m/s, removing
over 95% of the initial kinetic energy. The final velocity was
only limited by the spread of the beam between the last coil
and the detector. We chose oxygen because it has a perma-
nent magnetic moment in the ground electronic state and is
important to chemical processes such as combustion reac-
tions, surface interactions, and atmospheric chemistry. Slow-
ing of molecules is complicated by the existence of avoided
energy level crossings between different rotational states at
high magnetic fields. In light of this complexity, an experi-
mental realization of magnetic stopping of molecules is es-
sential in order to establish the viability of the method.
We now discuss the magnetic sublevels involved in mag-
netic deceleration of oxygen. Nuclear statistics forbid the
existence of K=0,2,4,... rotational levels of 16O2. The ad-
dition of electron spin angular momentum Sto the rotational
angular momentum Kgives the three possible total angular
momentum states J=0,1,2 J=K+S, electron orbital angular
momentum in the state is zero. In the weak-field Zeeman
approximation, the three total angular momentum states split
into nine sublevels with different total angular momentum
projections on the quantization axis. At high fields above
2.5 Tthe electron spin decouples from the rotational angu-
lar momentum and forms three sets of three levels, each set
nearly degenerate. The K=1, J=2, MJ=2 sublevel has the
highest magnetic moment both in the low- and high-field
regions, where the magnetic moment is approximately equal
to 1.8 Bohr magnetons 17in the Paschen-Back regime. At
about 8 T the K=1, J=2, MJ=2 sublevel mixes with the J
=2, MJ=2 sublevel from the K=3 manifold, changing its
character from low-field to high-field seeking. Since the
high-field-seeking state is defocused by the fields created in
our solenoids, this sets a limit on the maximal value of the
magnetic fields that we can use. The measured peak value of
*raizen@physics.utexas.edu
PHYSICAL REVIEW A 77, 051401R兲共2008
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1050-2947/2008/775/0514014©2008 The American Physical Society051401-1
the magnetic fields created on the axis of our solenoids is
5.2 T. Based on our finite element calculations, this corre-
sponds to a maximal magnetic field adjacent to the coil
windings of just below 6 T which is well below the limit of
8 T. As such, we do not expect any losses due to the avoided
crossing. In order to achieve the highest slowing efficiency,
we tune the timing of our coils such that molecules in the
ground rotational J=2, MJ=2 sublevel are slowed.
We now describe our experimental setup, which is illus-
trated in Fig. 1. We generate the supersonic beam using the
Even-Lavie pulsed solenoid valve 18,19. It is capable of
producing 10
s full width at half maximum FWHM
pulses with intensities of up to 1024 atoms/sr/s. In order to
lower the initial velocity of the beam we use a mixture of
oxygen and krypton at a ratio of 1:5, and cool the valve to
1481 K. This produces an oxygen beam with a mean ve-
locity of 389 m /s with 28 m /s standard deviation. The beam
passes through a 5-mm-diam, 50-mm-long conical skimmer,
which is mounted 300 mm from the exit of the nozzle. From
the skimmer base the beam travels 250 mm to the first coil of
our slower.
We use the same slower design as was used to stop the
metastable neon beam 14. It consists of 64, 14-mm-spaced
center-to-centerelectromagnetic coils similar in design to
the solenoid used in our pulsed valvethat are controlled
individually by passing a peak current of 750 A in a
100-
s-long pulse through 30 copper windings 0.5 mm
wire diameter. Due to the high magnetic saturation materials
that we use to confine the magnetic flux we achieve 5.2 T
peak magnetic fields on the axis of our solenoid. We switch
the magnetic field to 20% of its initial value in 6
s. The
remaining field, due to the eddy currents, decays exponen-
tially with a time constant of 17
s. In order to characterize
the switching profile and absolute magnetic field values we
insert a magneto-optical crystal, terbium gallium garnet
TGG, into the bore of our coil and shine a linearly polar-
ized HeNe laser beam focused to 80
m along the axis. We
monitor the polarization direction of this beam throughout
the switching process 20. The polarization of light propa-
gating in a magneto-optical material rotates by an amount
proportional to the magnetic field parallel to the light Fara-
day effect. The polarization rotation profile of a pulsed coil
is shown in Fig. 2for a TGG crystal length of 1.4 mm.
We detect the oxygen beam using a quadrupole mass
spectrometer QMSequipped with an electron multiplier
output 21. The detector is mounted on a 50.8 mm transla-
tion stage, which allows us to directly measure the velocity
of the beam. The distance between the last decelerator coil
and the ionizer is 100 mm.
The parameter we adjust to control the final velocity of
the beam is the position of a synchronous molecule inside of
a coil when it is switched off. We follow the convention of
the Stark decelerator 22and refer to this position as a phase
angle. Phase stable acceleration has its roots in particle ac-
celerator physics 23,24. A phase angle of 0° corresponds to
switching the coil when a synchronous molecule is between
two coils, while 90° refers to switching when the molecule is
at the center of the coil. A lower switching phase means that
a molecule experiences lower peak magnetic fields and the
molecule loses less kinetic energy per deceleration stage.
However, switching at lower phase increases the volume of
the stable phase space region and leads to greater fluxes of
slowed molecules. The switching sequence is generated by
numerically simulating the flight of a molecule through our
apparatus using magnetic field gradients calculated by finite
element analysis and a temporal profile obtained by Faraday
rotation measurements. Since the deceleration process is
adiabatic it does not depend strongly on the fine details of the
switching profile. Even changing the magnetic moment value
by as much as 10% when numerically calculating the timing
sequence and keeping the terminal velocity constant by ad-
justing the phase, we do not detect changes in the slow mol-
ecule flux.
A possible loss mechanism for a pulsed magnetic slower
is Majorana spin flips at zero magnetic field 15,16.Inour
case, during the initial deceleration stages the adjacent coil
current pulses overlap. It takes about 35
s for a molecule
traveling at 390 m/s to cross a single solenoid. Since our
pulse length is fixed at 100
s there is a 65
s overlap in
adjacent coil pulses. For the slowest molecules traveling at
80 m/s, the time between adjacent coils switching on in-
creases to 170
s leaving a 70
s time interval where no
current pulse is applied. However, due to the slowly decay-
ing residual field generated by eddy currentsmolecules al-
ways experience a finite magnetic field and we do not expect
Majorana losses in our deceleration process.
Supersonic
Valve Skimmer Coils
25 cm
QMS
Translation
Stage
FIG. 1. Color onlineA schematic drawing of our apparatus.
The center section has been shortened by a 64 cm cutout. Objects
other than the coils are to scale; coils have been enlarged for clarity.
FIG. 2. Rotational of the plane of polarization of a HeNe laser
passing through a 1.4 mm TGG crystal placed in the bore of a
pulsed coil as a function of time. The curve is an average of 200
individual measurements.
NAREVICIUS et al. PHYSICAL REVIEW A 77, 051401R兲共2008
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051401-2
The results of our experiments are shown in Fig. 3.We
show slowing of a molecular oxygen beam operating our
coilgun with phase angles between 47.8° and 63.2°. The ini-
tial beam has a velocity of 3895m/s with a standard de-
viation of 28 m/s. The slowed peaks have velocities of
24213, 1958, 155 5, 114 3, and 833m/s, respec-
tively. For the 83 m/s beam, more than 95% of the kinetic
energy is removed. The progression of the slowed peaks for
different switching phases demonstrates that this method of
slowing is tunable and can be used to create beams of any
velocity. The shape of the slowed peak is determined by the
phase used, as well as the profile of the magnetic fields in the
coils. The anharmonic nature of the potential a molecule ex-
periences as it enters a coil leads to different periods for
different phase space orbits. Thus, the time-of-flight profile
of the slowed beam is not expected to be a single peak. As
can be seen in Fig. 4, we do not slow the entire initial beam,
but instead slow molecules in a particular velocity window.
The size of this window depends on the phase angle used by
the slower. According to our calculations the window is ap-
proximately 2m/s for the highest phase used. Also, mol-
ecules which are high-field seekers will be defocused by the
magnetic fields in the coils, and are thus expected to be
largely removed from the beam. This contributes to the mini-
mum seen in the perturbed initial beam.
We now provide criteria for the general application of the
coilgun to stopping paramagnetic molecules. As mentioned
above, avoided crossings may limit the strength of the field
that can be applied to a low-field-seeking molecule. The
maximal field strength can be estimated knowing the rota-
tional constant and magnetic moment of the molecule. For
example, in the case of molecular oxygen, 16O2, the differ-
ence between the lowest K=1and the first excited K=3
rotational states is equal to 10B, where B=43 100 MHz is
the rotational constant. Since the maximum magnetic mo-
ment of ground state molecular oxygen is about two Bohr
magnetons corresponding to two unpaired electrons, the
energy splitting between the two rotational states in the
Paschen-Back regime decreases as 22
BH, where His the
magnetic field and
Bis the Bohr magneton. The two levels
cross at the magnetic field value that satisfies the equation
22
BHmax =10B. Solving for Hmax gives a magnetic field
value of 7.7 T. This field value of the avoided crossing im-
poses a maximum energy that can be removed from the beam
in a single slowing stage. As such, a design must allow for a
large number of deceleration stages in order to slow heavy
molecules. Our design possesses the required scalability, as
we have demonstrated by extending our apparatus from 18
stage 13to 64 stages 14.
An alternative solution to the problem of avoided cross-
ings would be to construct a decelerator for diamagnetic spe-
cies and high-field-seeking states based on an alternating
gradient method, as has been shown in the case of the Stark
decelerator 25. Here, the magnetic field strength limitation
is removed and higher fields would enable more efficient
slowing. Another possibility is to trap low-field-seeking mol-
ecules in a traveling magnetic trap, similar to the atom “con-
veyor” used to transport cold atoms over macroscopic dis-
tances 26, and decelerate the trapped molecules adi-
abatically 27. One could choose a low acceleration such
that trapped molecules would not substantially deviate from
the field minimum at the center of the magnetic trap.
Future work will extend the coilgun method to trap mol-
ecules of chemical interest. Once they are in a magnetic trap,
they can be cooled to near the single photon recoil limit
using the method of single photon cooling, as demonstrated
recently with trapped atoms 28,29. The application of this
method to cooling of molecules is particularly promising
30.
This work is supported by the Army Research Office, the
R. A. Welch Foundation, the Sid W. Richardson Foundation,
and the U.S. National Science Foundation Physics Frontier
Center.
FIG. 3. Time-of-flight measurements recorded with the QMS
detector for different phases along with a reference beam. The
slowed curves show only the slowed portion of the beam for clarity.
Beam velocities are a389 m/s, b242 m/s, c195 m /s, d
155 m/s, e114 m/s, and f83 m/s. Each profile is an average of
200 individual measurements. The ratio of the area under each slow
peak to the geometrically scaled area under the reference beam at
the position of the first slower coilis b2.3%, c1.7%, d1.2%,
e1%, and f0.8%.
FIG. 4. Full range time-of-flight measurement recorded with the
QMS detector for 114 m /s final velocity. This figure shows the
perturbed initial beam along with the slowed peak. The curve is an
average of 200 individual measurements.
STOPPING SUPERSONIC OXYGEN WITH A SERIES OF PHYSICAL REVIEW A 77, 051401R兲共2008
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    Mounting a molecular beam source near the tip of a hollow high-speed rotor provides a means to shift the velocity distribution of the beam downward or upward over a wide range. We describe the construction of such a device and experiments and model calculations characterizing its operation, for both supersonic and effusive beams of rare gases, O2, CH3F, and SF6. For example, the flow velocity of a rotating supersonic beam of O2 was accelerated to above 1000 m/s (corresponding to a kinetic energy of 2200 K and deBroglie wavelength of 0.1 Å) and decelerated (when seeded in Xe) to below 70 m/s (corresponding to a kinetic energy below 10 K and deBroglie wavelength of nearly 2 Å). With improvements in prospect, the rotating beam source offers a versatile and relatively simple way to enhance techniques for manipulating molecular trajectories.
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    We report the experimental demonstration of a novel method to slow atoms and molecules with permanent magnetic moments using pulsed magnetic fields. In our experiments, we observe the slowing of a supersonic beam of metastable neon from 461.0 ± 7.7 to 403 ± 16 m s−1 in 18 stages, where the slowed peak is clearly separated from the initial distribution. This method has broad applications as it may easily be generalized, using seeding and entrainment into supersonic beams, to all paramagnetic atoms and molecules.
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    We report the cooling of an atomic ensemble with light, where each atom scatters only a single photon on average. This is a general method that does not require a cycling transition and can be applied to atoms or molecules that are magnetically trapped. We discuss the application of this new approach to the cooling of hydrogenic atoms for the purpose of precision spectroscopy and fundamental tests.
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    We outline a method to slow paramagnetic atoms or molecules using pulsed magnetic fields. We also discuss the possibility of producing trapped particles by adiabatic deceleration of a magnetic trap. We present numerical simulation results for the slowing and trapping of molecular oxygen.