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Physics  2005 

Collisional and thermal ionization of sodium Rydberg atoms I. Experiment for nS and nD atoms with n=8-20

DOI: 10.1088/0953-4075/38/2/002

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Collisional and thermal ionization of sodium nS and nD Rydberg atoms with n=8-20 has been studied. The experiments were performed using a two-step pulsed laser excitation in an effusive atomic beam at atom density of about 2 10^{10} cm^{-3}. Molecular and atomic ions from associative, Penning, and thermal ionization processes were detected. It has been found that the atomic ions were created mainly due to photoionization of Rydberg atoms by photons of blackbody radiation at the ambient temperature of 300K. Blackbody ionization rates and effective lifetimes of Rydberg states of interest were determined. The molecular ions were found to be from associative ionization in Na(nL)+Na(3S) collisions. Rate constants of associative ionization have been measured using an original method based on relative measurements of Na_{2}^{+} and Na^{+} ion signals.


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