Volume 77, Number 5, March 2007
Article Number 54001
Number of page(s) 6
Section Electromagnetism, Optics, Acoustics, Heat Transfer, Classical Mechanics, and Fluid Dynamics
Published online 23 February 2007
EPL, 77 (2007) 54001
DOI: 10.1209/0295-5075/77/54001

Exploring the van der Waals atom-surface attraction in the nanometric range

M. Fichet1, G. Dutier1, A. Yarovitsky1, P. Todorov1, I. Hamdi1, I. Maurin1, S. Saltiel1, D. Sarkisyan2, M.-P. Gorza1, D. Bloch1 and M. Ducloy1

1  Laboratoire de Physique des Lasers, UMR7538 du CNRS et de l'Université, Paris13 - 99, Av. J.B. Clément, F-93430 Villetaneuse, France
2  Institute for Physical Research, National Academy of Sciences - Ashtarak 2, Armenia

received 6 November 2006; accepted in final form 17 January 2007; published March 2007
published online 23 February 2007

The van der Waals atom-surface attraction, scaling as C3z-3 for z the atom-surface distance, is expected to be valid in the distance range 1$\hbox{--} $1000 nm, covering 8$\hbox{--} $10 orders of magnitudes in the interaction energy. A Cs vapour nanocell allows us to analyze the spectroscopic modifications induced by the atom-surface attraction on the $6P_{3/2} \rightarrow 6D_{5/2}$ transition. The measured C3 value is found to be independent of the thickness in the explored range 40$\hbox{--} $130 nm, and is in agreement with an elementary theoretical prediction. We also discuss the specific interest of exploring short distances and large interaction energy.

42.50.Xa - Optical tests of quantum theory.
34.50.Dy - Interactions of atoms and molecules with surfaces; photon and electron emission; neutralization of ions.
32.70.Jz - Line shapes, widths, and shifts.

© Europhysics Letters Association 2007