Theory and simulation of ion Coulomb crystal formation in a Penning trap
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Ion Coulomb crystals (ICCs) are formed by laser-cooled ions in both radio-frequency and Penning traps. In radio-frequency traps, the crystals are generally stationary. In Penning traps, ICCs always rotate. The frequency of rotation is often set by an applied rotating wall drive that forces the crystal to rotate at the same frequency as the drive. In the absence of any applied rotating or oscillating fields, ICCs in a Penning trap can be in stable equilibrium with a range of rotation frequencies. The density and shape of the crystal adjust with the rotation frequency to ensure that equilibrium is reached. Here, we show that the parameters of the radial laser-cooling beam determine the rotation frequency of a small crystal in a Penning trap when no driving fields are present. We demonstrate, using an approximate theoretical treatment and realistic simulations, that the crystal rotation frequency is independent of the number of ions and the trap parameters, so long as the crystal radius remains smaller than the cooling laser beam waist. As the rotation frequency increases, the crystal eventually becomes a linear string, at which point it is no longer able to adjust its density. Instead, a small amplitude vibration in the zigzag mode of oscillation manifests itself as a rotation of the crystal at a fixed frequency that depends only on the applied trap potential.
KeywordsLaser Beam Rotation Frequency Laboratory Frame Laser Cool Radial Plane
This work was supported by the European Commission STREP PICC (FP7 2007–2013 grant number 249958). We gratefully acknowledge financial support towards networking activities from COST Action MP 1001—Ion Traps for Tomorrows Applications.
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