Coulomb crystallization of highly charged ions

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Science  13 Mar 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6227, pp. 1233-1236
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa2960

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Highly charged ions in cold confines

High-energy irradiation can strip many electrons away from individual atoms, producing ions with charges of +10 or more. However, many of the interesting properties of such highly charged ions are hard to study or exploit under the extreme conditions needed to prepare them. Schmöger et al. cooled down argon ions with +13 charges from the megakelvin temperatures needed for their generation to millikelvin temperatures appropriate for high-precision spectroscopy. The method relies on sympathetic cooling by a cold sample of singly charged beryllium ions and is likely to be applicable to a broad range of other elements.

Science, this issue p. 1233


Control over the motional degrees of freedom of atoms, ions, and molecules in a field-free environment enables unrivalled measurement accuracies but has yet to be applied to highly charged ions (HCIs), which are of particular interest to future atomic clock designs and searches for physics beyond the Standard Model. Here, we report on the Coulomb crystallization of HCIs (specifically 40Ar13+) produced in an electron beam ion trap and retrapped in a cryogenic linear radiofrequency trap by means of sympathetic motional cooling through Coulomb interaction with a directly laser-cooled ensemble of Be+ ions. We also demonstrate cooling of a single Ar13+ ion by a single Be+ ion—the prerequisite for quantum logic spectroscopy with a potential 10−19 accuracy level. Achieving a seven-orders-of-magnitude decrease in HCI temperature starting at megakelvin down to the millikelvin range removes the major obstacle for HCI investigation with high-precision laser spectroscopy.

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