Europhys. Lett.
Volume 47, Number 4, August 1999
Page(s) 414 - 420
Section General
Published online 01 September 2002
DOI: 10.1209/epl/i1999-00404-8

Europhys. Lett, 47 (4), pp. 414-420 (1999)

Heating of trapped atoms near thermal surfaces

C. Henkel and M. Wilkens

Institut für Physik, Universität Potsdam
Am Neuen Palais 10, 14469 Potsdam, Germany

(received 8 February 1999; accepted in final form 24 June 1999)

PACS. 03.75${\rm - b}$ - Matter waves.
PACS. 32.80Lg - Mechanical effects of light on atoms, molecules, and ions.
PACS. 03.67Lx - Quantum computation.


We study the electromagnetic coupling and concomitant heating of a particle in a miniaturized trap close to a solid surface. Two dominant heating mechanisms are identified: proximity fields generated by thermally excited currents in the absorbing solid and time-dependent image potentials due to elastic surface distortions (Rayleigh phonons). Estimates for the lifetime of the trap ground state are given. Ions are particularly sensitive to electric proximity fields: for a silver substrate, we find a lifetime below one second at distances closer than some ten $\mu{\rm m}$ to the surface. Neutral atoms may approach the surface more closely: if they have a magnetic moment, a minimum distance of one $\mu$m is estimated in tight traps, the heat being transferred via magnetic proximity fields. For spinless atoms, heat is transferred by inelastic scattering of virtual photons off surface phonons. The corresponding lifetime, however, is estimated to be extremely long compared to the timescale of typical experiments.


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