Ultracold polar molecules near quantum degeneracy
We report the creation and characterization of a near quantum-degenerate gas of polar 40K–87Rb molecules in their absolute rovibrational ground state. Starting from weakly bound heteronuclear KRb Feshbach molecules, we implement precise control of the molecular electronic, vibrational, and rotational degrees of freedom with phase-coherent laser fields. In particular, we coherently transfer these weakly bound molecules across a 125 THz frequency gap in a single step into the absolute rovibrational ground state of the electronic ground potential. Phase coherence between lasers involved in the transfer process is ensured by referencing the lasers to two single components of a phase-stabilized optical frequency comb. Using these methods, we prepare a dense gas of 4 × 104 polar molecules at a temperature below 400 nK. This fermionic molecular ensemble is close to quantum degeneracy and can be characterized by a degeneracy parameter of T/TF = 3. We have measured the molecular polarizability in an optical dipole trap where the trap lifetime gives clues to interesting decay mechanisms. Given the large measured dipole moment of the KRb molecules of 0.5 Debye, the study of quantum degenerate molecular gases interacting via strong dipolar interactions is now within experimental reach. PACS numbers: 37.10.Mn, 37.10.Pq.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Cold and Ultracold Molecules