Author (Your Name)

Yin LiFollow

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Physics and Astronomy Dept.


Duncan Tate


Ultracold neutral plasmas (UNP) exhibit interesting behavior and are more feasible to control than hot plasmas. Physicists would like to lower the temperature of a UNP to achieve a higher Coulomb coupling parameter, Γ for both electrons and ions. However, the three body recombination (TBR) between ions and electrons produces Rydberg atoms and heats up the plasma electrons, thereby ionizing them to Γe < 0.2. Adding Rydberg atoms to the plasma will reduce the temperature of a UNP in certain situations. In this honors project, we tried to achieve a Γe value greater than 0.5 by embedding Rydberg atoms multiple times in the plasma. We did extensive numerical simulations, but we were unable to replicate previous results from another group which obtained Γe = 0.5 in the first 1 µ s of plasma evolution. However, we were able to use the simulation results to test various different experiment scenarios. For experiments, we created a UNP of Rubidium atoms in the magneto-optical trap by laser cooling and photoionization. We figured out a nice way to zero the electric field within the field meshes by looking at the plasma expansion very late in its evolution through the micro-channel plate. We set the voltage and delay on the field mesh bias to find expansion velocity of the plasma for time t > 50 µs, and we used different methods to deduce the expansion velocity from the ion time of flight signals. However, we found that there was no relation of Γe at 1 µ s and the expansion velocity at a later stage of plasma evolution by simulation. To get around this, we figured out a new way to get the ions distribution at a specific time after the plasma creation by pushing all the ions to the micro-channel plate.


Laser cooling, Ultracold Neutral Plasma, Rydberg, Magneto-Optical Trap, Rubidium