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The central theme of ‘optical pumping’ is the transfer of angular momentum. Circularly polarized light carries angular momentum, and resonant light can transfer this angular momentum to the atoms in a vapor sample. This technique, combined with the quantum-mechanical properties of atoms’ ground states, makes possible a host of applications of a deceptively simple optical technique.
Optical pumping is historically interesting for its ‘late’ discovery—this non-laser phenomenon could have been discovered in the 1930’s. But since its invention in the 1950’s, it has remained a technique of continuing interest for highly-sensitive magnetometry, and for atomic frequency standards. It’s also a fine tool for motivating students to appreciate the details of atomic fine- and hyperfine-structure.
This workshop will use the ‘optical bench’ topology of a TeachSpin apparatus to show in detail the instrumental requirements for this technique. Participants will learn how to set up, align, and optimize an optical-pumping apparatus. They will use it to detect driven radio-frequency quantum transitions in real time, and apply that capability to the measurement of weak magnetic fields.
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