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Diode Laser Spectroscopy
Diode lasers are a common tool in today’s physics laboratories. Because the wave length of these lasers is relatively easy to sweep, they are particularly useful in all sorts of spectroscopy experiments. In this Immersion, we will explore the S1/2 - P3/2 transition (780 nm) of both isotopes of rubidium (87Rb and 85Rb) in a multitude of configurations. Using counter-propagating ‘pump’ and ‘probe’ beams, generated by the same laser, to produce Doppler Free spectroscopy, we will look at and measure hyperfine splitting. We will then use the apparatus for a set of other experiments chosen from a variety of options, such as using an unequal arm Michelson to calibrate the frequency sweep, creating side bands and analyzing with a Fabry-Perot cavity, doing Resonant Faraday Rotation, or creating Coherent Population Trapping (CPT) in Zeeman sublevels.
Although this Immersion will use the TeachSpin Diode Laser Spectroscopy apparatus shown in the photographs, these experiments can be adapted for a home-built apparatus.
Manuals for this experiment can be found here.
Expanded discussions of the physics and descriptions of the experiments are available on the TeachSpin website (www.teachspin.com). The Conceptual Introduction, written by Professor David Van Baak of Calvin College and past president of ALPhA, offers a particularly helpful overview before beginning the experiment for both faculty and students.
The Session will begin with the physics of the diode laser itself, including the effects of grating angle, diode current and temperature. We will also get into the practical aspects of using the laser, aligning and tuning it for use in our experiments. This will lead us to the observation of the Doppler broadened rubidium absorption signals as the laser light passes through a heated cell containing both isotopes of rubidium.
After looking at the laser modes, we will expand the wavelength range by linking the sweep of the laser current to the piezo sweep of the grating angle. Using mirrors and beam-splitters we will create overlapping, counter-propagating ‘pump’ and probe’ beams. This optical configuration produces saturated-absorption or ‘Doppler-free’ spectroscopy. Limited only by the natural linewidth (<10MHz, out of an optical frequency of about 385 million MHz) of the atomic transitions, we will look at absorption lines that would otherwise be unobservable in a gas near room temperatures. Once comfortable with the apparatus, participants will be able to choose several of the following projects, depending upon their particular interests or the topics they feel will be most relevant for their students.
Participants should bring their own scientific calculators and some sort of data book. Laser goggles will be provided at the Immersion.
A complete Diode Laser Spectroscopy system can be purchased for less than $18,000. Many schools with optics programs will have most of the components available and could certainly put together an apparatus of their own design.
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