The European Physical Journal D - Atomic, Molecular, Optical and Plasma Physics

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 375-384

First online:

Microwave traps for cold polar molecules

  • D. DeMilleAffiliated withPhysics Department, Yale University Email author 
  • , D. R. GlennAffiliated withPhysics Department, Yale University
  • , J. PetrickaAffiliated withPhysics Department, Yale University

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We discuss the possibility of trapping polar molecules in the standing-wave electromagnetic field of a microwave resonant cavity. Such a trap has several novel features that make it very attractive for the development of ultracold molecule sources. Using commonly available technologies, microwave traps can be built with large depth (up to several Kelvin) and acceptance volume (up to several cm3), suitable for efficient loading with currently available sources of cold polar molecules. Unlike most previous traps for molecules, this technology can be used to confine the strong-field seeking absolute ground state of the molecule, in a free-space maximum of the microwave electric field. Such ground state molecules should be immune to inelastic collisional losses. We calculate elastic collision cross-sections for the trapped molecules, due to the electrical polarization of the molecules at the trap center, and find that they are extraordinarily large. Thus, molecules in a microwave trap should be very amenable to sympathetic and/or evaporative cooling. The combination of these properties seems to open a path to producing large samples of polar molecules at temperatures much lower than has been previously possible.