Download and read my Southampton University PhD thesis titled, “A Chirped, Pulsed Laser System and Magneto-Optical Trap for Rubidium“, published March 2009.

You can also obtain this publication through the British Library EThOS (e-theses online service) here:

The thesis is also available from the University of Southampton e-Prints Service here:


This thesis covers the construction and characterisation of a magneto-optical trap (MOT) for 85-Rb from the very beginning. It details both the optical and mechanical aspects from laser diode assembly, tuning and stabilisation to the preparation and assembly of the vacuum system.

The MOT construction forms the first goal of the project, the second was to develop a laser system capable of producing custom programmable, amplitude modulated and frequency chirped pulses (on the tens of microseconds timescale) from a continuous wave source. This involved developing software and computer control for several arbitrary signal generators linked to drivers for acousto-optic and electro-optic modulators. This chirped, pulsed laser system will be used to perform state manipulations on the 85-Rb MOT cloud using two-photon Raman transitions in an adiabatic rapid passage regime.

The chirped pulse system was initially tested with a rubidium vapour cell in an attempt to perform atomic interferometry that would produce spatial interference fringes along the length of the cell. However, due to the beam power requirements, the beam diameter together with the large Doppler shift at room temperature meant these fringes were not seen and so the vapour cell was replaced with the cold atom cloud in the MOT.

Two-photon Λ experiments were attempted with the MOT cloud using the chirped pulse system, however despite greatly improved laser power and detection efficiency, the signal indicating ground state population transfer via a two-photon interaction was not seen. The results indicate that the hyperfine-ground state splitting frequency has been shifted due to the proximity of the ion pump magnet to the vacuum system. Presently, efforts are being directed towards searching for the correct frequency.