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Rev Sci Instrum. 2016 Sep;87(9):093103.

Precision atomic beam density characterization by diode laser absorption spectroscopy.

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Physics Department, The College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts 01610, USA.


We provide experimental and theoretical details of a simple technique to determine absolute line-of-sight integrated atomic beam densities based on resonant laser absorption. In our experiments, a thermal lithium beam is chopped on and off while the frequency of a laser crossing the beam at right angles is scanned slowly across the resonance transition. A lock-in amplifier detects the laser absorption signal at the chop frequency from which the atomic density is determined. The accuracy of our experimental method is confirmed using the related technique of wavelength modulation spectroscopy. For beams which absorb of order 1% of the incident laser light, our measurements allow the beam density to be determined to an accuracy better than 5% and with a precision of 3% on a time scale of order 1 s. Fractional absorptions of order 10-5 are detectable on a one-minute time scale when we employ a double laser beam technique which limits laser intensity noise. For a lithium beam with a thickness of 9 mm, we have measured atomic densities as low as 5 × 104 atoms cm-3. The simplicity of our technique and the details we provide should allow our method to be easily implemented in most atomic or molecular beam apparatuses.


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