Production of trilobite Rydberg molecule dimers with kilo-Debye permanent electric dipole moments

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Science  03 Apr 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6230, pp. 99-102
DOI: 10.1126/science.1260722

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Making a molecular fossil lookalike

Atoms are generally compact objects. However, if one of the electrons orbiting the nucleus is given an extra boost of energy so that it's barely still attached, you get a much larger Rydberg atom. Booth et al. created an even more exotic species: a giant molecule consisting of a regular cesium atom bound within a Rydberg atom of the same element. The molecules are named “trilobites” because their electronic density visually resembles fossils of these extinct marine creatures.

Science, this issue p. 99


Permanent electric dipole moments are important for understanding symmetry breaking in molecular physics, control of chemical reactions, and realization of strongly correlated many-body quantum systems. However, large molecular permanent electric dipole moments are challenging to realize experimentally. We report the observation of ultralong-range Rydberg molecules with bond lengths of ~100 nanometers and kilo-Debye permanent electric dipole moments that form when an ultracold ground-state cesium (Cs) atom becomes bound within the electronic cloud of an extended Cs electronic orbit. The electronic character of this hybrid class of “trilobite” molecules is dominated by degenerate Rydberg manifolds, making them difficult to produce by conventional photoassociation. We used detailed coupled-channel calculations to reproduce their properties quantitatively. Our findings may lead to progress in ultracold chemistry and strongly correlated many-body physics.

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