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Traveling-wave Stark deceleration of SrF molecules

PhD ceremony:Mr J.E. van den Berg
When:September 04, 2015
Supervisors:prof. dr. S. (Steven) Hoekstra, prof. dr. K.H.K.J. (Klaus) Jungmann
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Science and Engineering
Traveling-wave Stark deceleration of SrF molecules

In this thesis we describe an experiment to decelerate SrF (strontium-monofluoride) molecules. Decelerating these molecules is an important step towards precision measurements with these molecules, for example to test the Standard Model.  The Standard Model describes the interaction of all the elementary particles through the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, and the electromagnetic force. Although the Standard Model is very succesful and accurate, it does not include all the physics we know of. For instance, it does not describe gravity or dark matter.

The validity of the Standard Model can be tested in collision experiments in particle accelerators like at CERN, or in very precise small table-top experiments.Unknown physics can cause very subtle deviations in the structure of molecules. These deviations can be sought for in very precise measurements on decelerated molecules. By decelerating the molecules in vacuum, and by making them very cold, the molecules can be prepared such that the required precision is achieved.

Heavy molecules are most suited for these precision tests of the Standard Model. However, they are difficult to decelerate. We proposed to build a so-called traveling-wave Stark decelerator of five meter length. This device should enable the deceleration of SrF molecules. This was verified by computer simulations. We then built the decelerator and showed the first time succesful deceleration of SrF molecules. This paves the way for precision measurements on heavy molecules.