Weak Atomic Interactions

University dissertation from Stockholm : Fysikum

Abstract: An atom or ion can change quantum state, usually through emission or absorption of a photon. The photon has the same energy as the energy difference between the states of the transition. The states, or energy levels, of an atom are quantized and light emitted, or absorbed, from the atom is therefore of specific wavelengths, giving spectral lines. The spectrum of an atomic ion is unique and contains information of the structure and energy levels of the ion. The spectrum of an atom can be used as a fingerprint in determinations of the abundance of the element in different objects.This thesis is focused on some weak effects observed by spectroscopy. Although the effects are weak, they turn out to be of great importance. According to quantum mechanics transitions between certain states are not allowed. Here the weak effects open the possibility for transitions. Spectral lines from forbidden transitions are very weak and difficult to observe under ordinary laboratorial conditions, but they are commonly observed from astrophysical objects and can be very useful for diagnostics of astrophysical plasmas. The first reported observation of forbidden lines was from an astrophysical object and at that time supposed to be from new, previous unknown, elements. If all possible decay channels from an energy level are forbidden, the energy level is metastable and has usually a lifetime 10$^8$ times longer than an ordinary excited state. Measurements of such long lifetimes are difficult since the ion need to be confined during the observation time. Confinement of ions can be achieved with a storage device, such as a storage ring or a trap, where the ions are stored without interacting with each other or the surroundings.A laser probing technique has been developed at the storage ring CRYRING, for measurements of lifetimes of metastable states. The technique has now been improved for measurement of longer lifetimes. The technique has also been modified to fit when measuring on negative ions. Results of lifetime measurements are reported and the techniques and methods used are described.Another weak effect is hyperfine interaction, which splits the energy levels of an atom or ion. Hyperfine splitting is very small and usually special spectral techniques are needed to resolve such structure. A laser can, in combination with an electromagnetic radio-frequency field, be used for accurate determination of hyperfine structures in atomic ions. Such measurements are also important for evaluation of astrophysical properties, since hyperfine structure can broaden the spectral lines. An experimental setup for such double resonance measurements has been developed and constructed. Results of experimental measurements are reported and the technique is described.