Laser cooling and magneto-optical trapping of neutral atoms has revolutionized the field of atomic physics by providing an elegant and efficient method to produce cold dense samples of ultracold atoms.
Molecules, with their strong anisotropic dipolar interaction promises to unlock even richer phenomenon. However, due to their additional vibrational and rotational degrees of freedom, laser cooling techniques have only been extended to a small set of diatomic molecules.
In this thesis, we demonstrate the first magneto-optical trapping of a diatomic molecule using a quasi-cycling transition and an oscillating quadrupole magnetic field. The transverse temperature of a cryogenically produced YO beam was reduced from 25 mK to 10 mK via doppler cooling and further reduced to 2 mK with the addition of magneto-optical trapping forces.
The optical cycling in YO is complicated by the presence of an intermediate electronic state, as decays through this state lead to optical pumping into dark rotational states. Thus, we also demonstrate the mixing of rotational states in the ground electronic state using microwave radiation. This technique greatly enhances optical cycling, leading to a factor of 4 increase in the YO beam fluorescence and is used in conjunction with a frequency modulated and chirped continuous wave laser to longitudinally slow the YO beam. We generate a flux of YO below 10 m/s, directly loadable into a three-dimensional magneto-optical trap. This mixing technique provides an alternative to maintaining rotational closure and should extend laser cooling to a larger set of molecules.