Precision Measurements of Atomic Lifetimes and Hyperfine Energies in Alkali Like Systems [report]

Carol E. Tanner
2005 unpublished
Financial support of this research project has lead to advances in the study of atomic structure through precision measurements of atomic lifetimes, energy splittings, and transitions energies. The interpretation of data from many areas of physics and chemistry requires an accurate understanding of atomic structure. For example, scientists in the fields of astrophysics, geophysics, and plasma fusion depend on transition strengths to determine the relative abundances of elements. Assessing the
more » ... ts. Assessing the operation of discharges and atomic resonance line filters also depends on accurate knowledge of transition strengths. Often relative transition strengths are measured precisely, but accurate atomic lifetimes are needed to obtain absolute values. Precision measurements of atomic lifetimes and energy splittings also provide fundamentally important atomic structure information. Lifetimes of allowed transitions depend most strongly on the electronic wave function far from the nucleus. Alternatively, hyperfine splittings give important information about the electronic wave function in the vicinity of the nucleus as well as the structure of the nucleus. Our main focus throughout this project has been the structure of atomic cesium because of its connection to the study of atomic parity nonconservation (PNC). The interpretation of atomic PNC experiments in terms of weak interaction coupling constants requires accurate knowledge of the electronic wave function near the nucleus as well as far from the nucleus. It is possible to address some of these needs theoretically with sophisticated many-electron atomic structure calculations. However, this program has been able to address these needs experimentally with a precision that surpasses current theoretical accuracy. Our measurements also play the important role of providing a means for testing the accuracy of many-electron calculations and guiding further theoretical development, Atomic systems such as cesium, with a single electron outside of a closed shell, provide the simplest open shell systems for detailed comparisons between experiment and theory. This program initially focused on measurements of excited state atomic lifetimes in alkali atomic systems. Our first measurements of atomic lifetimes in cesium surpassed the precision and accuracy of previous measurements and sparked renewed interest in the need for greater precision in lifetime measurements throughout the atomic physics community. After enhancing the capabilities of the laser systems built for these initial measurements, we began a study hyperfine energy splittings in cesium using a thermal DISCLAIMER
doi:10.2172/899215 fatcat:xx35wryfczg65mtglok7rlpl2m