New physics with evanescent wave mirrors: the van der Waals force and atomic diffraction
N. Westbrook, C. I. Westbrook, A. Landragin, G. Labeyrie, L. Cognet, V. Savalli, G. Horvath, A. Aspect, C. Henkel, K. Mølmer, J. Y. Courtois, W. D. Phillips, R. Kaiser, and V. Bagnato
Physica Scripta T78 (1998) 7-12.
(proceedings of the EGAS Conference 1997)
After a brief introduction to the field of atom optics and to atomic mirrors, we present experimental results obtained in our group during the last two years while studying the reflection of rubidium atoms by an evanescent wave. These involve the first measurement of the van der Waals force between an atom in its ground state and a dielectric wall, as well as the demonstration of a reflection grating for atoms at normal incidence. We also consider the influence of quantum reflection and tunnelling phenomena. Further studies using the atomic mirror as a probe of the van der Waals interaction, and of very small surface roughness are briefly discussed.
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