chapter  5
34 Pages

Section 5. OPTICAL FORCES AND TORQUES ON ATOMS

It has been known for some time that the interaction of laser light with a free atom can give rise to electromagnetic pressure forces that act on its centre of mass. These forces have been extensively examined both theoretically and experimentally: see, for example Metcalf and van der Straten (5.1) or Adams and Riis (5.2). A simple model of a two-level atom subject to a plane electromagnetic wave may be shown to give rise to two kinds of force acting on the atom centre of mass. These are, a dissipative force arising from the absorption of the light by the atom and its subsequent spontaneous emission in a random direction and a dipole force arising from the non-uniformity of the field distribution which can attract the atom to the regions of intense field. These forces underpin the manipulation of atoms by lasers in a variety of beam configurations. The dissipative force has been exploited in the Doppler cooling of the atomic motion (5.3, 5.4) and the dipole force used for trapping (5.5), while a combination of these effects has led to the realisation of Bose-Einstein condensation (5.6). These forces are, of course, closely related to the ones discussed in Section 4.