Transitions between Rydberg states can be driven using microwave sources, which offer stability, linewidth and modulation capabilities unrivaled by lasers. The linewidths of microwave-driven transitions can be used as a direct, sensitive probe of interactions between cold Rydberg atoms. For example, we have used this technique to demonstrate that resonant electric dipole-dipole interactions between cold Rydberg atoms are partially suppressed by DC magnetic fields.
We have recently initiated a program to study the interaction of Rydberg atoms with metal surfaces, using laser cooling and the newly developed technology of magnetic microtraps (atom chips). I will discuss our current progress, and what we hope to learn from these studies.
Work performed in collaboration with K. Afrousheh, P. Bohlouli-Z., J. Carter, O. Cherry and A. Mugford, and supported by NSERC (Canada).