Submission Date


Document Type



Physics & Astronomy

Faculty Mentor

Thomas Carroll


Presented during the 20th Annual Summer Fellows Symposium, July 20, 2018 at Ursinus College.

Supported by a National Science Foundation grant (PHY-1607335).

Project Description

Rydberg atoms, which have a highly excited outer electron, are easily manipulated by electric fields. Using a magneto-optical trap, we cool Rubidium atoms to a few hundred millionths of a Kelvin above absolute zero and then excite to Rydberg states. Our first project looks at the dipole-dipole interactions of two atoms starting in the 33p state and ending in the 34s and 33s states. The standard technique is to apply an increasing electric field that ionizes the Rydberg electron and sends it to a detector, but unfortunately the signals overlap. A genetic algorithm is used to separate the signals by controlling the ionization pathway.

In order to understand how a Rydberg atom ionizes we need to build a model. The current model, which uses a semi-empirical formula, neglects important quantum phase information. In our second project we are building a computational model that includes continuum states along with discrete states. We present progress on a new model which takes into account the differences in normalization for continuum and discrete states.