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Phys Rev Lett. 2007 Jan 12;98(2):023004. Epub 2007 Jan 10.

Mechanical effect of van der waals interactions observed in real time in an ultracold Rydberg gas.

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  • 1Physikalisches Institut, Universität Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.


We present time-resolved spectroscopic measurements of Rydberg-Rydberg interactions between two Rydberg atoms in an ultracold gas, revealing the pair dynamics induced by long-range van der Waals interactions between the atoms. By detuning the excitation laser, a specific pair distribution is prepared. Penning ionization on a microsecond time scale serves as a probe for the pair dynamics under the influence of the attractive long-range forces. Comparison with a Monte Carlo model not only explains all spectroscopic features but also gives quantitative information about the interaction potentials. The results imply that the interaction-induced ionization rate can be influenced by the excitation laser. Surprisingly, interaction-induced ionization is also observed for Rydberg states with purely repulsive interactions.

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