Abstract

A theory to describe collisions between pairs of atoms that are being cooled by a laser field is presented. The derivation uses the Heisenberg picture and results in a set of coupled optical Bloch equations and associated equations for the translational motion. By defining a correlation variable between the two atoms, we obtain a system of linear equations that may be solved numerically. If the interaction is ignored, the usual cooling curve is obtained: In the full simulation it is found that long-range collisions (0.1ƛ → 10ƛ) can significantly alter the atomic velocities. Depending on how the atoms approach each other, there are various effects: jumps in velocity at the center of the collision, interruptions of the cooling cycle, and signs of collective effects for long-range collisions. If the atom density is sufficiently large and the atoms are moving slowly, these collisional mechanisms may prevent any further cooling.

© 1991 Optical Society of America

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