Metastable Neon Atoms

The understanding of interactions of ultracold atoms is considerably extended by experimental studies of non-alkali systems. The element neon with its bosonic and fermionic isotopes represents an important candidate for such studies.

Unlike alkaline elements, metastable neon atoms (Ne*) are manipulated in their first excited electronic state which has a finite lifetime of 14.73 s and a large excitation energy of 16.6 eV. Therefore, ultracold clouds of Ne* constitute a unique system: Two colliding Ne* atoms easily ionize; this process is called Penning ionization making it experimentally challenging to realize a dense and ultracold ensemble of Ne*. Ne* atoms and the charged products of an ionizing collision can be detected electronically with a quantum efficiency between 50% and 100%. The detection of ions offers a non-destructive method to diagnose the properties of the trapped atomic ensemble.

Goal of our work is to attain a comprehensive understanding of the interaction of a gas of ultracold metastable neon atoms.

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