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Urbonas, Linas (2009): Experiments with the One-atom-maser. Dissertation, LMU München: Fakultät für Physik



There are only fistful of systems in physics that can be described by an exact theory from first principles and, at the same time, can be investigated under experimental conditions approaching the idealized theoretical ones. The one-atom-maser or micromaser provides such an example, making a detailed study of the fundamental properties of the atom-field interaction possible. The situation realized in a micromaser is very close to the ideal case of a single two-level atom interacting with a single quantized mode of a cavity field. In the micromaser the atoms have a dual purpose of both pumping the field and also probing it via measurements of the outgoing atoms. Any other means of measuring the field inside the resonator has the detrimental effect of lowering its Q-factor and thereby the photon storage time. The long photon storage time of the resonator allows for the decay of the field to be negligible during the passage of an atom and its interaction with the field. The behavior of atoms in a cavity is governed by the oscillatory exchange of energy between the atoms and the field, which is called Rabi oscillation. For cavity fields in the vacuum and few photon number states (Fock states), Rabi oscillations have been measured in the past. To prevent thermal effects from polluting the pure number states these experiments were performed at low temperatures (below 1 K). However, the observed resolution of the Rabi oscillations measurements was quite disappointing (only about 2% of the predicted theoretical value) and precluded more ambitious experiments like atom-atom correlations or time resolved investigations of the maser field dynamics. The observed contrast of Rabi oscillations can be considered as a figure of merit for the experimental resolution of quantum features of a maser field. Therefore, a high resolution in the measurements of Rabi oscillations is crucial. This thesis describes the methods and improvements applied to enhance the resolution of Rabi oscillations by a factor of 8. The following upgrades and developments proved to be crucial in this work: 1) The base temperature of the cryogenic system was lowered to 0.3 K, i.e. one third of the original value. At the same time, the time during which the system remains at the base temperature was improved by almost of an order of magnitude (to more than 12 h). 2) For the promotion of the atoms to the Rydberg regime new three-step diode laser setup was constructed. The excitation efficiency compared to the old dye laser was increased by two orders. Using top-of-fringe stabilization with new spectroscopic methods, specially designed error detection and feedback schemes as well as state-of-the-art PID regulators the continuous locking of lasers is about 8 h (compared to about 20 min with the old dye laser system). 3) The flexibility of using the three step excitation allows to excite different maser states and for the first time to investigate pure maser transition. 4) Various improvements on the atomic oven and the channeltron detection unit led to the reliable and stable production and detection of the atomic beam. Observed distribution of the atomic beam statistics reaches to within 6% the Poisson limit which is expected in the absence of experimental imperfections. 5) New developed techniques in magnetic field compensation allow to perform such measurements with two orders of magnitude better accuracy compared to the previous experiments. To demonstrate the new capabilities of the apparatus and to apply its improved resolution of quantum fields we performed a previously impossible in-depth analysis of mean photon number and the atomic inversion produced by a micromaser for various detunings between the cavity- and atomic resonance frequency.